Technology companies in England and Wales posted more IT vacancies in 2021 than all British businesses combined in 2020 – pumping £29.4 billion ($39.4bn) into the UK tech sector in the process, according to a new labor market report.
Jobs market data collected and analysed by recruitment consultancy Robert Walters and analytics firm Vacancysoft found that more than 12,800 new vacancies for tech professionals were posted by companies in 2021, an increase of 105% compared to 2020.
More new IT vacancies were published in the technology, media, and telecoms (TMT) sector in 2021 than there were across all British industries in 2020. In TMT, job postings grew 119%, the data found. Companies with the highest number of tech job vacancies in 2021 were JPMorgan Chase, Sky, Version 1, Amazon and Nationwide building society, which advertised a combined 10,611 posts.
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Across the board, most tech vacancies in 2021 were within software development and engineering – roles for these professionals grew 88.2% year on year, reflecting businesses' ongoing demand for new digital products and services, and more robust technical infrastructure.
Likewise, the fastest-growing roles were within IT support: the pivot to remote working and digital-first businesses has created a plethora of technical challenges as employers attempt to navigate new ways of working, putting technical know-how at a premium.
Tom Chambers, associate director of Robert Walters, said while coding and programming have been valuable skills for some time, the pandemic had "accelerated and has now normalised the pace at which businesses are launching digitalization projects."
Chambers told ZDNet: "Development know-how is the new currency of the industry and the global demand for the same talent at the same time has created a candidate shortage like we've never seen before."
Job vacancies for IT security experts experienced the smallest growth in 2021, increasing a mere 70% year on year as companies look beyond what Chambers called "overnight remote solutions" and towards long-term, hybrid working. "Cybersecurity will also be another area that will continue to grow as new and emerging industries launch and present new sets of challenges for online security and data use," he added.
Investors put £89.5 billion into European tech firms in 2021, said Robert Walters, a third of which (£29.4bn) was invested in UK firms. This is double the amount invested in Germany and three times more than France received in 2021.
As a result, the combined value of UK tech companies founded since 2000 stands at an estimated £540 billion. A record figure for sure, but one that still pales in comparison to Apple's gigantic $3 trillion market value. "[This] reflects how demand for tech from consumers, and also for digital infrastructure and solutions from business, soared in 2021 with restrictions still keeping people largely home – and working remotely," said the report.
Most of this investment was funnelled into London, which accounted for 47.5% of all new tech jobs posted last year. However, almost $9bn was pumped into startups and scale-ups outside of the UK capital and the south east of England.
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The south was the second-largest regional area for tech vacancies, experiencing a 95% year-on-year increase and accounting for 26% of all IT roles. Wales saw an even sharper increase in job vacancies compared to London, with hiring levels up 121.8%.
The UK Digital Economy Council recently declared Cambridge the leading regional tech centre, followed by Manchester and Oxford. However, Robert Walters noted that employers face challenges when it comes to recruiting in these areas.
Intense tech hiring combined with a dwindling pool of suitable candidates means employers will struggle to find the talent required to meet their quickly evolving tech needs, particularly as record numbers of employees change jobs.
Fewer young people are being swayed by tech careers, too – threatening to dry up the pipeline of new digital talent into the industry.
"The industry says this prevents it from expanding as fast as it can and impacts wider growth, and hopes the government can provide a boost over the next 12 months," said the report.