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Tech Britain is flourishing and here's why

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This is a guest post by Geoff Smith, managing director of Experis Europe.

Technology is flourishing across Britain - not just in the Silicon roundabout. Tech City UK's Tech Nation report recently found that a full three quarters of digital companies across the country are based outside of London. This is supported by our own Tech Cities Jobs Watch report where we noted a 10% drop in Q2 for IT roles advertised in London, compared to a 3% increase in other UK cities. 

These numbers represent a small part of the larger story of an expanding ecosystem of tech roles and innovation beyond the conventional hotspots. London's position as a dominant hub for innovative digital businesses and tech-start-ups is unlikely to change any time soon - but a number of factors are creating a larger pull to establish clusters of tech expertise across the country. Below, we'll look at a few of the forces that are encouraging the growth of digital Britain, and how it's affecting the way businesses everywhere hire and operate. 

The number of IT roles outside of the Capital is increasing

One of the major forces in the digitalisation of Britain is the rapid rise in both the number and variety of roles available outside the Capital. In one sense, this is an inevitable by-product of the way technology has become part of all aspects of our lives. Nearly all businesses in the UK are dependent on technology to operate, meaning a demand for IT skills for operations, sales and security is pressing. 

Big Data provides an example where the number of roles advertised in Tech Cities outside of the Capital increased by 18% since the start of the year. Echoing this trend, Mobile Development and Cloud roles increased by six and 13% respectively. As businesses large and small adopt more digital practices, the subsequent demand for IT professionals with skills in key tech disciplines will continue to rise. 

Cost is another factor affecting the increase in the number of jobs available in alternative tech cities. As tech infrastructure across the country has improved, it has become even 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. 

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

With more and more organisations across the UK battling to attract tech professionals, advertised salaries have been shifting to reflect the competition. London's average salary for permanent roles, covered by our report, has remained the highest in the UK. They rose in Q2 2015 to £53,107 - roughly 3% higher than the average in Q4 2014. 

However, cities outside the Capital have kept pace: Cambridge, one of the largest UK hubs of digital business and innovation, and Bristol another of the UK's longstanding tech clusters, both saw salaries increase over the averages recorded at the end of 2014, by 3% and 2.5% respectively. At the halfway point, 2015 figures from Tech Cities Job Watch indicated upwards pressure on permanent salaries across the country. 

Contract roles often present an opportunity for companies to bring in talent for short term projects, or to fill a gap while a more permanent solution is offered. It is also a chance for companies outside of the Capital facing skills shortages to entice specialist expertise from further away. Big Data roles have consistently commanded the highest average day rates, and in Q2 2015 Brighton and Birmingham were offering average day rates of £675, 26% higher than the London average. 

As we continue to monitor the hiring trends that evolve and Britain proceeds with its digital evolution, we can expect to see organisations increasingly recognise the need for talent that has been developed in cities such as London and Manchester, and to continue to stump up the necessary cash to attract them.

The demand for skills is growing outside of London

Technology continues to evolve, and with it the demands and expectation of customers and staff. The skills and languages needed to provide services are also growing. 

I've discussed above how skills in Big Data (Apache Hadoop, Splice Machine, Tableau and SAP HANA) and Cloud development (Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and MS Office365) have become more sought after by firms outside of big cities.  We can only expect this to continue as more businesses, large and small, use IT to augment a wider section of their work.

The private sector organisations across the country also face competition for skills from the public sector - which is undergoing major digital transformations, subsequently requiring large numbers of skilled IT talent.

Other, more sinister forces are also having an effect on the demand for IT skills. In the wake of high profile cyber security breaches and attacks, businesses of all sizes are having to invest heavily in IT security. This is driving increased demand for SIEM (Systems Intrusion and Event Management) and IDAM (Identity Access Management) experts and biometrics specialists.

As long as technology marches forward at its current breakneck pace, so will the hiring trends shaping the evolution of digital Britain.

Careers Clinic: Quality over Quantity

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This is a guest blog post from Jeremy I'Anson, professional career coach and the author of You're Hired!

Jeremy I'Anson Photo.jpgYesterday I got a call from a reader who told me that he had sent off 50 CVs over the last three months and not had a single interview. Unfortunately that's a story I hear all too often and I'm afraid it's a reflection of the difficult economic time that we live in.

But what's interesting is that there are plenty of jobs out there. It's just that there are so many more candidates looking for work. In these market conditions employers can be much more selective.

Sending out so many CVs and not getting any response is a sure sign that the CV is not doing its job which is to get you interviews. My advice would be to reduce the number of applications and focus instead in the jobs that you know can do. If the advertisement lists "essential skills and experience" then recruiters will automatically reject all candidates who don't meet those minimum requirements.

 So search for just a few jobs where you know you have all of the skills required and then make sure that your CV (and covering letter if required) specifically mentions each of the skill requirements. This means extra work for you as you will need to customize your CV for each application but it will pay dividends.

Make it absolutely clear at the top of the first page of your CV, in the Profile or Summary sections and with a  key skills list that you have ALL of the required experience.

Much better to send off ten customized and carefully targeted applications than fifty of the same old CV and hope for the best



Do you have a careers question for Jeremy I'Anson ?




Jeremy I'Anson is a professional career coach and the author of You're Hired! Total Job Search 2013. Visit for further details.


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A new lesson in coding?

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In this guest blog post, Naomi Hewitt, director of HR, The NET-A-PORTER GROUP, writes about why it is time to teach tech at schools.

The founder of a new after school coding club for 10-11 year olds recently claimed that"We're teaching our kids to be secretaries rather than programmers." I can understand her concerns as they echo those of the Corporate IT Forum's Education and Skills Commission, which recently called for ICT education to be replaced with "IT in business" lessons. I do believe that more could be done in schools and universities to encourage and inspire young people in learning about technology and the essential role it plays in business today.


In the UK specifically there seems to be a disconnect between Academia and 'the real world' with many of the computer-related courses on offer bearing little relevance to the exciting technology roles available in the business world.  This may be symptomatic of a legacy of both free higher education and the pursuit of traditional liberal arts subjects, but it is certainly not helping to make the transition to the job market any smoother for young people.

As a fast growing ecommerce business, The NET-A-PORTER GROUP, whose brands include NET-A-PORTER, THE OUTNET and MR PORTER, is as much a technology as a fashion company. Recent new technology launches include the development of new shopping platforms for tablet, mobile and TV, NET-A-PORTER LIVE, an interactive shopping experience and an augmented reality shopping app. To ensure we continue to stay at the forefront of technical development we require cutting-edge tech talent and find ourselves competing fiercely for the UK's top notch developers and programmers, who are very much in demand. To address this, we recently launched an e-commerce academy, training tech-savvy graduates in vital programming skills alongside developing a commercial awareness with a view to further enhancing our in-house team, who continue to create and develop innovative ideas to benefit our business and customers.

Initiatives such as our graduate technology scheme are a direct result of the UK's broader digital skills gap. Earlier this month figures were released from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC). showing that while the job market shrinks and graduate opportunities decrease, permanent IT staff placements have increased for the third consecutive month.

This reflects the fact that online and mobile are two of the fastest growing sectors - the interest in London's Silicon Roundabout, the Government's training to help "Web Fuelled" businesses and the advent of 4G promising lightning fast mobile broadband are just some of the indicators of the burgeoning potential of this market and the increasing demand for digital talent in the UK. As an example of this, our own business has grown from 0 to over 2000 employees over the last twelve years. And we're not the only ones on the lookout for digital talent. There are many companies now which have digital elements at the heart of their organisation, beyond businesses traditionally associated with business technology. 

It's also worth noting that often those who go into young, modern, digital organisations will have more opportunity to inform its direction and make their mark than they would if they worked in a traditional back office IT role. Without inspiring young people to recognise these growing opportunities we may not meet the demand for digital talent. 

That's why businesses and educational establishments need to take responsibility for showing young people that careers in technology such as web development and design can be commercially relevant, exciting and incredibly rewarding and adapt their courses appropriately.

As the cost of higher education continues to rise, so too will the expectation for concrete outputs from the education system.  Other countries are already addressing this. US colleges, for instance, have a much greater appetite for partnering with employers to tailor their academic programmes to get students 'job ready' and look to lure students based on the percentage of alumni that matriculate into jobs with Fortune 500 companies. Britain must follow suit, and fast. If that means updating some of the processes and techniques young people are learning in school and university in favour of new, more exciting and empowering digital activities then we're all for it.

Budget 2012: We need more IT apprentices

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It has not been a big budget for job creation. The Chancellor said the government was committed to increase adult apprenticeship funding by £250 million a year by 2014-15. The question is whether this is enough?

David Bywater, a KPMG tax partner, said, "The government is trying to support apprentices. It is a measure that is welcome, but the question is: is it enough? What will be the tangible benefits for business?"

However, Bindi Bhullar, director, HCL Technologies said: "Far from worrying about being left behind by foreign economies such as India, the government should instead look to follow their example, and find local government sponsorship for training and support from high-tech multinational corporations. There are so many savvy young minds who are facing the prospect of long-term unemployment today, and if the government is truly serious about embracing innovation, it should invest in IT skills for the young as a means of creating jobs, and driving Britain out of economic uncertainty."

David Roberts, executive director of The Corporate IT Forum, said, "Apprentices need much more support because the fall out rate is quite high. There has to be a mentoring programme in place. Apprentices need to have access to a business savvy mentor.

How can the UK enhance and inspire superior technology skills in the workforce?

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A guest post by Nick Wilson, UK Managing Director, of HP


The UK's ICT sector contributes £81bn of added value to the UK's economy. The sector is the largest in Europe and employs over a million people who contribute 10% of GDP, according to UK Trade and Investment.


On the surface the technology sector looks very secure - after all, the internet alone is worth £100bn a year to the UK economy.


It is clear that the UK is in an enviable position, but it is not a secure position. What the figures don't show is the technology investment gap in the UK, also called the IT skills gap. This is a problem that technology firms, and any organisation seeking to hire skilled technology staff, are facing right now.


The CBI's Building for Growth report that showed over 40% of employers struggle to fill these skilled roles; over half expect this to increase. I have no doubt the problem is more pronounced in small and mid-sized companies who find it hard to compete for the best IT staff. These companies are the engine of growth for the UK. We all need their innovation, energy and insight and we risk hampering their growth potential by not providing them the talent pool they need.


A big impediment to growth, businesses face, is getting the right people with the right skills. Everybody I speak to, in the IT industry, agrees that the lack of job-focused IT skills in UK school leavers and graduates is causing recruitment problems in the technology sector at a time when we wrestle with unemployment across the country.


The eSkills UK Technology Insights 2011 report quantified this problem, reporting that the UK is failing to capitalise on the £50bn productivity gain which could be achieved through the better use of technology.


The technology industry is taking responsibility for this issue - we have to if we are to continue to innovate and grow. The sector is increasingly stepping in to help with approaches ranging from transforming the technology curriculum to investing in new entrepreneurs.


For example Vodafone Ventures global investment is set to invest in the next wave of wireless start-ups. Vodafone will also expand its high tech version of Dragon's Den called 'Mobile Clicks' to coach the next generation of online entrepreneurs. And Intel Innovators has launched a contest where entrepreneurs can win $100,000 each month for the best tech-based ideas.


For our part, we recently launched the 'HP Institute', a new set of courses delivered by schools, colleges and training providers. This will give up to 20,000 people over the next four years the business and technology skills to help them secure long term careers and help businesses benefit from their skills from day one on the job. The courses have been designed to provide the kinds of skills that small and mid-sized companies need most. They cover the full realm of technology as well as a course on cloud computing and a vitally important module on IT and business which grounds the technology in the world of business.


This is the latest initiative in an ongoing series of programmes that has seen partnerships with The University of the West of England, De Montfort University and Buckinghamshire New University where HP jointly writes and delivers courses to directly improve the employability of graduates. And last year HP committed itself to creating new entry-level technology apprenticeships, in the Gosport, Portsmouth and Glasgow areas.


We've also seen that the government understands this issue and is making moves to address the skills gap, in particular, with the computer science GCSE qualification.


That does not mean there is less for the technology industry to do. On the contrary, we need more companies stepping up to the challenge to help broaden the horizons of the young and encouraging more of them to join this exciting, fast moving and profitable sector.

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IT sector must speak in skills to bridge gaps in capability and boost IT workforce

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Kevin Streater is executive director for IT employer engagement at The Open University. The Open University will be contributing a series of articles for ITWorks over the coming weeks breaking down the skills requirements for making your way in the IT profession. First in the series looks how the problems the IT sector faces in plugging its skills gaps

Whatever the uncertainties around the economic climate one thing that is increasingly clear is that the fate of the IT sector will be central to the UK's economic recovery.

E-Skills UK's Technology Insights report for 2011 calculates the ICT sector to be worth £100bn to the UK economy - a figure they predict could grow by £50bn over the next decade causing employment in the industry to grow nearly five times faster than the UK average.

But as we have seen from concerns over imminent skills shortages and falling numbers of IT and computer science graduates, it is not safe to assume that we have the workforce to fill a widening job market.

The crisis in UK IT centres on the development of new professionals and the system that supports their development through to senior management. The future of the sector is being harmed by graduates who are frustrated at the standard and relevance of their personal development - and employers that are concerned that the graduates they take on lack the skills and experience to transfer their understanding of IT into the workplace.

It's a challenge that requires a brand new approach from educators, dispensing with the traditional course brochures and starting to speak in the industry language of IT skills and competency.

The fact is a lot the difficulties facing the IT sector at present come down to barriers, both perceived and real, that have cast doubt on the public's views of IT as an affordable and accessible profession with a traversable route up to well paid senior management roles.

If companies want to attract and retain the best talent coming out of university into entry-level positions (which often can't compete financially with those offered by the City and law firms), they need to demonstrate clearer career pathways supported by intuitive and strategic staff learning.

At the Open University we are looking to untangle the multitude of job roles and skills requirements which we hope will help kick start a new openness in IT and see the numbers return to an industry that desperately needs them.

Over the coming weeks The Open University will publish a series of articles aiming to introduce Computer Weekly readers to a new approach to IT education and professional development throughout their sector.

This new model is based on intensive research and industry engagement by the University, encompassing skills mapping and job profiling that together meet the capability requirements of modern business. By breaking down the business driven competencies for each role into a selection of skills elements these articles will demonstrate the change in skills demand as you work your way up the IT ladder and guide you through the education tools available to help you make this transition.

This approach will help CIOs and IT managers create a skills development path that will put in motion a conveyer belt, turning entry-level staff into the company's future senior management.

Throughout these articles we will be encouraging Computer Weekly readers to ask questions via the ITWorks hash tag #ITworksCW, the Facebook page and the comment sections under each article. These questions will be collated and the most popular ones will form the basis of final article with answers provided by The Open University's expert careers advisors.

How to select the right graduate for a job in IT

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Gary Kildare, IBM VP for Human Resources, blogs on how IBM recruits graduates.

What makes a young person stand out as a potential employee? IBM takes on between 350-500 students, graduates and apprentices each year. Over time, we've identified seven transferable skills which we ask young people to demonstrate in our recruitment process.

These are - in no particular order:

  • adaptability
  • creativity
  • leadership
  • communication skills
  • collaboration skills
  • passion for our business
  • a strong client focus

We find that people who demonstrate these skills during the recruitment process are more motivated and keen to take on board the training we provide.

We take on graduates and students with a variety of degree backgrounds. A recent IBM graduate studied the fall of the Roman empire and the origins of the British Secret Service for his degree. Not obvious choices for someone on their way to a career in IT. However, he is now a client systems manager and works closely with clients to understand their needs and identify the IT services and products which will support their strategy.

The world around us is constantly changing, becoming more interconnected and intelligent. Seeking out candidates with transferable skills help us make sure that our hires can adjust and thrive in the years to come.