UK needs 21,000 more IT workers by 2050 than previously predicted

The tech sector is ahead of the curve in IT recruitment figures, but the increase in UK startups means demand is increasing

The UK is in need of at least 21,000 more IT staff by 2050 than previously predicted due to a surge in tech startups, according to a report from recruitment agency Randstad Technologies.

A previous report from Randstad revealed the IT workforce would need to grow by 5,000 each year from 2008 to create a workforce of 510,000 by 2050. But to satisfy the long-term needs of the country, this target figure has increased.

Recent growth in employment and training means the UK’s IT workforce is currently on track to meet the original target, since the number of tech staff has risen by 59% since 2008. Randstad recorded 489,000 employed IT staff in 2013.

However, the explosion of tech startups and increased growth in areas such as big data, mobile and security could cause demand to increase further by 2050.

Mike Beresford, managing director of Randstad Technologies, said: “A lot has changed in technology over the past five years and it’s fantastic to see that the sector has forged ahead in terms of growth and job creation. Comparatively high salaries and the strong influence of technology on our daily lives have made IT a highly desirable career path for many young people.

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“But it’s far too early for the sector to rest on its laurels. Technology is a huge area, and while there has been a surge of employees in the sector overall, there is still a real shortage of highly trained IT professionals with the most in-demand skills." 

Over the next five years, Randstad expects to see a huge growth in demand for skilled IT jobs but a decline in the number of telecoms jobs. “The sector still has a long way to go before it can meet that shift in demand,” said Beresford.

He said as London’s silicon roundabout has grown, more young people are choosing to pursue a career in IT.

“Increasing numbers of our brightest graduates are rejecting the traditional path of heading to financial or consulting firms, instead choosing to work for startups where they can make a real difference to those companies’ futures and perhaps be part of something that could be as big as Instagram one day.”

But he said many smaller tech firms are still struggling to find enough home-grown talent to fill these roles and cannot always afford to equal the wages that corporates can pay their employees. 

"To cope with talent shortages, many are now calling for the government to adjust its immigration policies to allow more skilled IT professionals into the UK,” said Beresford.

There is still a real shortage of highly trained IT professionals with the most in-demand skills

Mike Beresford, Randstad Technologies

IT sector loses £1.9bn each year through staff turnover: £31,808 per employee

A report from Oxford Economics has revealed that it costs £31,808 to replace an employee on a wage of £25,000 due to training costs and periods of low productivity as they get up to speed. This figure equates to the sector losing £1.9bn each year.

Commissioned by income firm Unum, the research also investigated the legal, retail, media and advertising, and accountancy sectors, revealing that the IT sector has the highest overall expenditure compared with the other four.

The report suggests this high cost is down to two factors:

  1. The loss in output during the period the new employee is trained, with the research finding that it takes 29 weeks for an IT worker to reach their optimum productivity level. Retail employees take 23 weeks, media and advertising take 20, legal take 32, and accountancy take 32 weeks. The report suggests training a new IT employee costs £25,353.
  2. The logistical costs incurred when recruiting and employing a new worker, such as advertising costs and agency fees. The report suggests on average IT businesses spend £6,455 per employee on logistical costs.

“This report reveals a stark cost implication for IT businesses dealing with staff turnover," said Matt Fahy, chief innovation officer at Unum. "While the logistical cost of replacing an employee will probably come as no surprise to businesses, the financial impact of having replacement workers learn the ropes is probably a cost that IT firms have not considered.”

Fahy encouraged businesses to place more emphasis on retaining talent and developing good staff to reduce the cost of staff turnover. 

“People stay with companies that demonstrate they value – and care for – their employees," he said. "For businesses trying to do this, financial reward is not always the answer. Staff increasingly value long-term employee benefits, such as income protection, so businesses should look at their entire benefits offering to help them keep their best people.”

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