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Can the talent sharing economy plug the IT skills gap?

The war for top tech talent rages on. Last year a survey of Tech London Advocates highlighted that 43 pert cent of its members feared that a shortage of key tech talent was threatening continued growth in the city’s digital sector.

In fact, in the fast growing London tech businesses the average number of such vacancies is seven, according to a survey of Tech London Advocates group members. So despite Mayor Bloomberg discerning a “technological zeitgeist sweeping across London,” for UK tech businesses a significant challenge remains.

But the good news is that progress is being made. The government’s expansion of the Tier One visa to include tech workers of “exceptional talent” will be a great boon for London in the medium term.

And, in the long term, one must welcome their promotion of STEM subjects in schools countrywide. But, in the short term, what can an emerging tech company do?

There is a solution. The sharing economy has become an entrenched part of modern culture. Far from being disregarded as hopeful start-ups, the likes of Uber and Airbnb stand shoulder-to-shoulder with giants like Facebook.

While businesses like these help people get more out of spare physical resources like spare bedrooms or idle cars, the most exciting sharing opportunity helps people get the most out of their human capital. This is the talent sharing economy.

Online work platforms make it easier for people who want to do work to connect with people who want work to be done. For people who need work done, the talent sharing economy makes it easier to find, vet, contract with, and pay talented people who have time to take on new tasks. For talented people with time to spare, it’s easier to find interesting opportunities, finalise terms on which to take on projects, and be assured that work done well will be compensated.

Over two million businesses now access talent on the Elance-oDesk platforms. IT jobs make up the largest category of online work, accounting for around 1.4million jobs posted globally on the platforms last year.

Currently within the IT sector, people with skills in PHP scripting language are in highest demand, closely followed by HTML and MySQL Administration. Freelancers with PHP skills earn up to £37 an hour.

Fundamentally, the talent sharing economy enables people to overcome the geographic, cultural and practical barriers that have limited the ability of talented individuals to connect with the people who want to work with talented people.

Any work that can be done on a computer can be done by a freelancer. Small business, start-ups and others who need only bits of time can more easily get the precise time and talent they need when they need it.

The talent sharing economy is very much a reality. Tech companies looking to recruit the best talent with the most up-to-date skills should embrace this and those that don’t run the risk of being left behind their competitors.

Hayley Conick is the country manager in the UK for Elance-oDesk.