The demand for technology skills is skyrocketing, and is set to rise higher in 2023. Even with the prospect of a recession prompting businesses to rein in hiring, the need for tech-savvy employees isn't going away, making the tech sector a great place to be for job security.
The most in-demand skills, such as data science and computer programming, can take years to master and often require a high level of education. The good news is that even non-tech workers can acquire basic tech and digital skills that will make them more appealing to employers.
Matt Hammond, founder of UK cloud solutions firm Talk Think Do, says that people in non-technical roles who want to make themselves 'recession-proof' should be looking for ways to get more tech-savvy and add to "some light technical ability" to their resumes.
"Becoming familiar with some of the freely available low-code tools will allow those in broad managerial or administrative roles to create applications that aid in solving their business' challenges," Hammond tells ZDNET.
"Going forward, candidates that can identify problems and provide a solution will become increasingly indispensable, futureproofing their roles and job security."
Data and reporting are also big buzzwords in the boardroom, says Hammond.
Demand for data scientists and data analysts are growing rapidly because of the unique skillsets these individuals possess, but even learning how to use basic reporting software to generate insight can impress managers and increase a candidate's hireability.
"This will also allow them to begin a journey towards a technical role, should this be something they desire," says Hammond.
Daniela Esposito, chief strategy officer at accelerator Startup Wise Guys, says understanding how to filter though, organize, structure and gain insights from data is essential to any tech or business-based role.
"From improving processes to strategic business decisions, from trend analysis to predictive analytics, from storytelling to managing ad spending, customer satisfaction and investor relations, data must be managed properly," Esposito tells ZDNET.
SQL, even at a basic level, is very useful in a world of data, big data, and large databases, Esposito adds. But even advanced Excel skills are still in demand and should be developed.
Whatever the type or size of the data being managed, employees need solid IT security skills to keep information safe, particularly while working in the cloud.
Hammond advises those in tech roles to consider how they can increase their knowledge around engineering, governance, security and architecture. "Through the pandemic, many legacy transformations were rushed through, and we are now in a time of unpicking issues and layering on security and governance measures that were missed during the height of COVID-19," he says.
For those already in tech roles, remaining malleable to the ever-evolving environment is going to be critical to retaining value and job security. "Being fluent in cloud-native solutions and being able to work with this sort of project will remain important into next year," Hammond adds.
Phil Boden, director of permanent placement services, technology, at recruitment specialist Robert Half, is also seeing entry-level support roles top the list of highly sought-after skills.
"These 'back-to-basics' type of roles dropped off the radar when the pandemic first struck as the need for early-careers staff to run triage calls, handle physical workstation set-ups and fix wi-fi dropped in a remote-working world," says Boden.
However, those taking up IT support roles now are becoming a valuable marketplace asset. What's more, Boden says these roles often act as a gateway into more technical professions, particularly cloud computing, that can accelerate candidates' careers. "Cloud is a lucrative field and a fantastic career opportunity in a hybrid working world. Demand for these skills isn't going to diminish any time soon – recession or not."
Of course, it's not just the ability to code, understand data or set up a cloud network that are valuable skills to business. There's no arguing that technical skills are hugely valuable – but businesses are ultimately run by people, which means the value of well-developed soft and interpersonal skills cannot be overstated.
Stuart Munton, chief for delivery at consultancy AND Digital, says recruiters are continually looking out for traits like communication, empathy and team working, which are capabilities that are even more important for businesses to cultivate during times of uncertainty.
A study carried about by AND Digital in October 2022 found that hiring managers ranked the ability to nurture colleagues, seeking to continuously improve, and engaging positively with others as among the most commonly desired skills and qualities in candidates.
"Our human skills are key to creativity and ingenuity, without which great tech solutions do not materialise to delight customers and help businesses achieve their goals," Munton tells ZDNET.
"In 2023, turning our focus towards developing these agile human skills will be essential to keeping businesses and careers safe in this economic downturn."
Indeed, some emerging tech tools arguably work better in the hands of people with broader business backgrounds and people experience – as opposed to professionals who only have experience working within technical siloes.
"Developments in low-code applications…mean that many technology roles require skills in customer experience design and problem solving – not just technical programming," says Shaheen Sayed, technology lead UK and Ireland at professional services firm Accenture.
"As organisations respond to these changes, they're already recruiting from a much wider pool of education disciplines, such as the arts, and placing a high value on these skills."