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The skills and trends shaping Britain’s buoyant tech scene in 2015

Britain’s tech industry is more buoyant than ever. Investment from Government, education and businesses, combined with a certain ‘can-do,’ entrepreneurial spirit inherent in our culture, has contributed to the growth of a hotbed of tech savvy professionals.

IT remains one of the most significant career growth areas, evidenced in the recent ‘Careers of the Future’ report from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES). This is good news for all talent-hungry companies, from start-ups to large corporates.

This article examines just some of the major trends in today’s constantly evolving tech industry. Intense competition for talent and the increasing demand for specialist skills such as Cloud, big data and cyber security, are well known, but there are also some less apparent developments, including the increasing importance of IT ‘soft skills’, the convergence of IT with other major departments within organisations, and the emergence of new technology capitals outside of London.

IT professionals and the companies that recruit them should all make themselves aware of these trends and understand how they will affect work in the future.

Intense competition for talent is the norm

The fast pace of technological change means companies must be able to bring innovations to market very quickly before their ideas get pre-empted or become obsolete. It has admittedly become easier to get ideas off the ground as more tax breaks for small businesses have become available, but with so many businesses competing for the same skills, attracting and keeping the right people has become very costly.

Cloud computing specialists in high demand

There are early indicators that we are approaching a critical point in the shortage of cloud-ready employees. Ultimately, as the shortage grows, companies will have to compete not just on pay, but with attractive benefits, working practices and reputation for how it treats its staff.

Companies that do not adequately develop their employer brand in 2015 risk being unable to attract new cloud candidates.

Mutual business partnerships will help address skills shortages

In the race for talent, there will always be winners and losers. Recognising that, some big businesses may choose not to compete, instead working to foster good partnerships with SMEs with the right specialised talent.

Big businesses can offer smaller ones infrastructure and scale, and small companies with rare specialist expertise can benefit from the stability offered by partnerships with major players.

We’ll also see more big companies acquiring smaller ones to address skills shortages. This will require mobilising newly acquired talent, investing in their training, and in many cases using recruitment partners to support transitions to different roles in different locations. Companies will use technology to help staff work remotely, creating a more global workforce, whilst (hopefully) retaining the values and appeal of working for smaller companies.

Big data is changing the way we work

Big data has made its mark across all areas of business, as a result it is commanding some of the highest salaries in the UK tech industry.

At Experis, as an example, we’re investing in tools and analytics to evaluate the data gathered by our 6,000+ professional contractors out on assignment and 3,000+ IT professionals that we place each year.

We’re aiming to analyse both real-time and historic views of the forces shaping hiring decisions, monitor salary and pay rates, benchmark new roles for our clients, identify regional hotspots and look at seasonality of hires to predict hiring demand. This valuable insight requires extensive technical and analytic expertise.

We are just one company tackling big data and we’re far from alone. Big Data has arrived and can be expected to gather further momentum through 2015 and beyond.

Advancement of cyber security skills

Another skill in high demand is cyber security. The continuing wave of high profile cyber-attacks illustrates the massive need for experts to help companies tackle security challenges head-on.

The attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment and Apple’s celebrity photo hack are headline-grabbing examples, but small companies and individuals are also being targeted. Insidious ‘ransomware’ viruses (e.g. CryptoWall), which lock up and encrypt systems and requiring a ransom fee to recover the material are becoming worrisomely common.

Businesses of all types and sizes will be turning increasingly to partnerships with security organisations, not just individual security experts, to help them assess their risk levels and comprehensively analyse their readiness.

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Soft skills are on the rise

Technical skills, while vital, are not the be-all and end-all for IT talent. As the market matures and demands for IT professionals increase, people with communications skills and customer service experience to complement their specialist technical knowledge, will find themselves more in demand.

We regularly speak to companies that have employed people solely for their tech prowess who realise that they also need people who can share their knowledge with others and communicate to management the value of new developments, such as emerging programming languages. They need to be able to interrogate data and present to varying audiences in plain English.

Tech Cities outside of London are emerging

Whilst London has, unsurprisingly, remained the main hub for IT professionals, developments outside the M25 show a number of exciting new areas on the rise.

Tech cities outside of London have emerged and IT professionals will see increasing permanent or contract opportunities available to them in cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Edinburgh. These cities boast IT salaries among the highest outside of London and job opportunities are on the rise.

These cities are playing a huge role in keeping Britain’s tech scene buoyant and can be excellent places to find talented young IT professionals who find the cost of London living prohibitive.

Businesses and departments are converging

The digital revolution is creating a convergence of IT with other business operations such as marketing, sales and accounts. There’s an increasing need for people across all of these functions to be IT savvy, not just IT literate and the potential for cross-discipline roles is greater than ever. This trend is set to continue throughout 2015 as talented professionals look to branch out to other disciplines.

Businesses are also diversifying. Big IT services companies are being forced to evolve as their existing revenues from big contracts are either reducing or drying up completely. Government will increasingly look to consortia and SMEs for their IT expertise, in particular SMEs that can prove they have top talent with USPs they can’t find elsewhere. Traditional systems integrators and IT outsourcing companies will have to adapt to new models to survive.

IT has, since its inception, been a constantly evolving industry that has penetrated business across the country, spilling across skillsets and industries. While revenue and employment potential in the industry still abounds, it’s becoming clear that the IT world of tomorrow, or even of 2016, will look very different from the one of today.

By Geoff Smith, Managing Director of IT recruitment specialist, Experis. You can follow him on Twitter @GeoffExperis