IT contractors confident they can plug the skills gap

A survey by Parasol reveals IT contractors are in it for the long term, with confidence in career prospects

Most IT contractors feel confident they can plug the UK's skills gap, according to a survey by Parasol.

The employment services company’s Contractor Barometer May 2014 report found that 77% of IT contractors feel well placed to bridge the skills gap in their field. Across all industry sectors, the figure was 74%.

The report also found that 82% of IT contractors plan to contract for the long term, and 92.4% say they feel more confident, or as confident, about their career prospects as they were a year ago, a higher percentage than in any other industry polled.

Of those surveyed, 27% said earnings potential is the most important factor in deciding to become an IT contractor.

Parasol managing director Derek Kelly said: “Our research shows that, as economic conditions improve, optimism is returning to the UK’s contracting and freelancing community.

“IT contractors rightly believe that their expertise and experience will be of use to clients struggling to recruit permanent employees with the right skills.

“While the skills shortage is a cause for concern for employers and UK plc as a whole, it represents an opportunity for the professional flexible workforce.

“If recruitment agencies and their clients are unable to source permanent staff with the necessary skills or experience, then contractors offer a short-term solution.”

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A report from KPMG and the REC (Recruitment and Employment Confederation) also revealed a recent rise in demand for the services of IT and computing professionals.

The Report on Jobs revealed a slight increase in demand for temporary IT staff between March and April, and a slight drop in demand for permanent IT staff.

Heath Jackson, partner in KPMG's CIO advisory practice, said: “With starting salaries rising at their fastest rate for almost seven years and temporary placements in the IT sector stronger than in the previous month, people would be forgiven for thinking the time is right to change jobs. 

“For many months, the focus has been on how long employees would wait before deciding to try something new. Yet the number of people putting themselves on the job market has dropped at its sharpest rate since 2004. It is this shortage of skilled labour that is forcing employers to tempt talent with improved pay, rather than new-found confidence.”

Meanwhile, Capita Managed IT Solutions is set to create 400 jobs in Northern Ireland in a £29.9m investment over the next three years.

The move was announced by First Minister Peter Robinson, who said: “The announcement of 400 new high-quality jobs at Capita will bring the total employed there to 945 and will deliver an additional £13.75m a year in salaries into the economy. This substantial reinvestment will build on the existing capability of the Newtownabbey centre and underscores Capita’s commitment to Northern Ireland.

“I will seek to ensure continued and targeted investment in skills, enterprise, innovation and economic infrastructure to enable us to attract and secure further quality investment on which we can build our economy.”

Job creation in Northern Ireland has been boosted recently by £4m provided by Invest Northern Ireland to help create over 2,600 jobs, and £1.2m training support provided by the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) under its Assured Skills programme.

Ed Brown, managing director of Capita Managed IT Solutions, said: “The business is seeking to grow its customer base, expand its service range and increase its service delivery capabilities in Northern Ireland. This investment is part of our strategy for achieving these objectives.

“Given the opportunities in the marketplace and the quality of services and people already in place, we believe we can reach our growth targets. Invest NI’s support is critical to enabling us to quickly recruit the new staff we need, while the support from DEL will ensure we can provide an excellent training programme to develop a pipeline of staff with the IT and management skills required to support our growth.”

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