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Three forces encouraging the growth of digital Britain

Across the UK, technology is booming, and this is not just in London. According to the latest Tech Nation report from Tech City UK, three quarters of digital organisations in Britain are based outside of London.

Further to this, our latest Tech Cities Job Watch report found a 3 per cent rise in IT roles advertised outside of London between April and June of this year. Together, these stats indicate the growing clusters of tech expertise beyond the Silicon Roundabout.

This is just a small part of a larger story around the expanding ecosystem of tech roles and innovation outside the conventional UK hotspots. We know that London’s position as a dominant hub for innovative digital business and tech-start-ups isn’t likely to change any time soon. After all, London is a thriving Capital city and a place where people want to live, due to its good transport links, mix of diverse cultures and access to a wide range of markets.

However, our work with companies across the UK has shown us how digital Britain is transforming. Below, we’ll explore three forces prompting this change, and how these are affecting the way businesses everywhere hire and operate.

The number of IT roles outside of the Capital is increasing

As mentioned previously, our data is indicating a rapid rise in both the number and variety of roles available outside of London. This is perhaps one of the most significant forces in the digitalisation of Britain. But it’s not necessarily surprising. Nowadays, nearly all businesses in the UK are dependent on technology to operate, and need to quickly introduce new systems and processes in order to keep up with the market.

According to our data, Big Data is a prime example where the number of roles advertised in Tech Cities outside of the Capital has increased. Since the start of 2015, we have seen the number go up by 18 per cent, closely followed by Mobile Development and Cloud roles, which have increased by six and 13 per cent respectively. The demand for these tech disciplines is largely due to an increase in companies investing in digital transformation projects to become more customer focussed. According to new research from CA Technologies (opens in new tab) this is a key revenue-driver for organisations across the UK.

Another factor adding to the increase in jobs across the nation’s tech cities is cost. As tech infrastructure across the country has improved, it has become much easier for businesses to operate and work with teams in remote locations. Cost-conscious businesses are taking note of the potential benefits of moving functions away from London where they can operate more affordably, while also appealing to IT professionals who are seeking a different quality of life than they can get in the Capital.

The demand for skills is growing outside of London

As technology continues to evolve, the demands and expectation of customers and staff do too. This means that a more diverse range of organisations across the UK are on the hunt for specific skills and languages that were previously sought by only big city digital agencies.

Firms outside of London are increasingly seeking skills in Big Data (Apache Hadoop, Splice Machine, Tableau and SAP HANA) and Cloud development (Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and MS Office365). I expect to see this trend continue as more businesses, both large and small, use technology to augment a wider section of their work.

There is also competition across the country between the private and public sectors. At large, this is due to the massive digital transformation being undertaken by the public sector, meaning they too require large numbers of highly skilled IT talent.

Finally, there are some more sinister forces having a profound effect on the demand for skills. In particular, high profile cyber-security breaches and attacks have meant businesses of all sizes are investing heavily in their IT security. In recent months we have noticed an increased demand for SIEM (Systems Intrusion and Event Management) and IDAM (Identity Access Management) experts and biometrics specialists.

Tech cities increasingly entice IT talent away from the Capital with competitive pay

As more organisations across the UK battle to attract skilled IT professionals, we have noticed that advertised salaries are shifting to reflect this competition. According to our report, London’s average advertised salary for permanent roles has remained the highest in the UK, and rose in Q2 2015 to £53,107, roughly 3 per cent higher than the average in Q4 2014.

However, cities outside the Capital have also risen and are continuing to keep pace. In fact, higher than average salaries, combined with lower cost of living in well-connected cities such as Bristol are enticing professionals away from the Capital where the cost of living is at an all-time high.

As any company involved in recruitment will tell you, it’s not just permanent salaries that are enticing tech talent away from the Capital. Contractor positions present opportunities for organisations to bring in talent for short term projects, or to fill gaps while a more permanent solution is prepared. It is also a chance for businesses facing digital skills shortages to entice specialist expertise from further away. Our data shows that Big Data roles have consistently commanded the highest average contractor day rates, closely followed by Cloud positions. In some cases it is the tech cities outside of London which are commanding the highest rates.

The future of digital Britain

Since starting our quarterly review of hiring trends across the UK’s Tech Cities, we’ve been impressed by the pace at which Britain is evolving into a truly digital nation. Despite rapid growth, I expect that organisations in all corners of the UK will continue to wake up to the need for highly skilled tech talent in the run-up to Christmas and beyond.

As we enter the final quarter of 2015, it has already been an exceptional year for tech hiring and the forces that have encouraged this growth show no signs of tapering off as we approach 2016.

Geoff Smith, Managing Director, Experis Europe (opens in new tab)