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Global IT contractor demand buoyed by security and skills concerns: Harvey Nash 2016

IT contractors look set to benefit from sustained rising demand for their services on a global scale, led by growing concerns over skills shortages, increasing cyber-security investment and falling numbers of available contractors.

The Harvey Nash Technology Survey for 2016 suggests that the IT contractor talent pool is shrinking, with improving market confidence leading many firms to ‘skills hoard’ by persuading contractors to join their permanent workforce. As a result, with skills shortages an ever-present concern, those who remain in the contract market will see no shortage in terms of demand for their services.

“Never has there been a better time to be a technology professional,” notes Harvey Nash CEO Albert Ellis. “To be successful in this area requires us to balance a complex array of fast-moving challenges, manage risk and work harder to outperform competitors.”

Perceived to be one of the biggest risks to the sector is the threat posed by security. Only 43% of global technologists believe their company is doing enough to protect itself from security threats, whilst only 5% think the risk of security attacks is falling.

However, despite mounting fears and resulting increasing investment, the report shows that 2015 actually saw a substantial decline in the amount of firms who were hacked – down 7% from 2014 to 39%.

Nonetheless, the survey highlights that, as technology innovation becomes increasingly complex, the pressure to manage the widening array of threats will mount, suggesting that cyber-security should remain a popular market for IT contractors for the long-term.

Curiously, the survey also notes an ongoing rise in permanent hires, with more professionals apparently leaving the contract market to take on full-time roles. 71% of respondents are now in permanent employment, marking the fourth consecutive year of growth in permanent hires and a 13% rise since 2012.

This is surprising, given the increasingly varied scope for IT contract opportunities arising from multiple sectors, and growing concerns over skills shortages. However, it does suggest that remaining contractors will have a better chance of standing out in a depleted talent pool.

Globally, 53% of hiring managers report to have been impacted by skills shortages in 2015, a 2% increase year-on-year. Meanwhile, 44% are concerned that the talent shortfall will worsen in future, whilst the same portion of respondents expect it to remain the same.

Skills shortages are the most acute in Europe (56%), and particularly in the UK where six in ten firms are affected by shortages. Despite this, firms look to remain active in the jobs market, with three quarters of businesses worldwide looking to either maintain or increase headcounts this year.

Contractors and other professionals appear to be alert to this and are on the lookout for new opportunities. Four in ten respondents are planning on leaving their current company within the next 12 months.

Meanwhile, contractors with developing and software engineering skills can expect the see the most substantial demand for their services, with professionals working in the two roles found to be subject to the most enquiries from head-hunters in 2015 (62% and 55% respectively).

Published: Monday, 7 March 2016

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