No IT contractor skills scarce, finds REC

Not a single IT skill was scarce on a contract basis in January 2017, in a rare finding indicating that the temporary labour market got its fill of IT contractors in the New Year.

December 2015 was the last time that shortages of freelance IT skills were so non-existent, but even then there was still one IT-led service that was in short supply. Now there are none.

Clients and agencies positioning themselves for the year ahead, coupled with contractors starting off the new calendar with a new opportunity, might explain January’s finding.

Disclosed by the REC, it comes at time when IT contractor demand is firmly on the up, suggesting the absence of skills shortages is not due to higher candidate availability combining with less appetite to hire.

In fact, demand for IT contractors in January rose to 58.3, compared to 56.3 in December 2016, shows Report on Jobs, published by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).

Although only relatively small -- a climb of just two index points -- the increase is significant, as it makes January 2017’s score on the IT contractor index the highest that REC has posted since January 2016.

Then, at that start of last year, IT contractor skills shortages were extremely confined too (just three including video gaming) and that January -- like this one -- was preceded by a buoyant December.

It appears to tally with anecdotal market reports that hirers used the pre-Christmas period to identify, secure and ‘lock-in’ the IT skills they would need post-Christmas, in the first three months of 2017.

This helps to potentially explain why not one temporary IT skill was reported by REC member agents last month as being sought-after but scarce -- in contrast with the labour market generally, including parts of full-time IT.

 “Employers are crying out for people to fill vacancies,” says Kevin Green, chief executive of REC, which found a scarcity of permanent candidates for positions in January requiring Oracle, CAD Design and Digital Services.

He added: “If businesses can’t find the people they need they will outsource abroad, automate activity or shut up shop”.

But it’s not just businesses that are reeling, as the National Health Service is also “in turmoil because it doesn’t have enough staff.”

Mr Green also said: “The government’s decision to prioritise immigration control over the economy in their EU negotiations means that finding candidates will become yet more difficult in the future.”

Feb 13, 2017