Demand for skilled tech workers changed during 2020 as companies adapted to the rapid shift to home working in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and rethought their business models. And the impact on tech recruitment isn't over yet.
At first there was increased demand for candidates that could enable remote working – people with skills related to cloud-based systems like AWS and Azure. Within the first four to eight weeks of the first lockdown, demand for these candidates rose by 400%, said recruitment company Hays.
This was followed by an increased need for cybersecurity experts with the technical skills to ensure that all these new remote-working apps were properly locked down, and also the ability to help remote workers modify their behaviour. Next, Hays said, came an uptick in demand for data analysts and data scientists – particularly from governments and health services for people who could crunch the numbers around COVID-19, but also from businesses trying to understand how their risk profile might have changed.
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In May and June there was a drop-off in demand, which the recruitment company said was due to companies starting to think longer term about their digital strategy, and working on tools to build a direct relationship with the customer.
"Most organisations now work in an agile or a semi-agile way, so they are looking for skills that can enable the change, but also software developers that can build and develop the applications that they require," Hays said.
"We have observed some specific areas of demand in response to the circumstances of this year," said James Milligan, global head of technology at Hays. "Developers top our list of job roles followed by DevOps engineers, security engineers, cloud architects and data scientists.
"Reflecting the rapid changes to our world of work, these areas of demand have shifted and continue to do so. Just a few months ago, we were seeing more demand for project managers and change experts as businesses kicked off revised digital transformation projects," Milligan said.
According to data from recruitment company Harvey Nash, cybersecurity, organizational change management and enterprise architecture were among the most in-demand skills of the year, with more changes likely to follow.
Bev White, CEO of Harvey Nash Group, said that before the pandemic skills shortages remained close to an all-time high, and even now demand continues to outstrip supply – especially around software development, cybersecurity, and data. But three new shifts in market dynamics brought about by COVID-19 could change the skills-shortage picture, White said.
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More tech professionals are on the market, and this includes some very strong and experienced candidates: "people who through sheer bad luck were working for a business or on a contract brought to a standstill by the virus," White said. And while churn rates in technology roles have also dropped (average tenures stood at only one-to-two years for many positions before the crisis) as many workers are less willing to risk a move in uncertain times, the net effect is still an increase in tech professionals looking for their next position. On top of this, there are new non-tech candidates who are looking to crosstrain and move into tech.
"We're finding that there are promising prospects in tech businesses and corporate technology functions for solid business professionals, with an ongoing need for soft skills and individuals who can translate business concerns into technical solutions," said White. The increasing willingness of companies to allow remote and flexible working is also likely to increase and diversify the potential candidate base, she added.
"The new model of working opens up possibilities to recruit tech talent from much further afield, and also to support flexible-working patterns that could be ideally suited to those who need to balance other responsibilities such as parenting or caring."