IT contractor demand hits its highest of 2017

The four weeks to June 2017 were the most buoyant period for IT contractors this year, a national staffing index indicates.

In fact, demand for IT skills on a temporary basis leapt in May to 61.9, according to staffing body the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC).

That compares to 59.2 in April, and 60.1 in March which, until now, was 2017’s best month on the REC’s demand index for IT contractors.

But the May reading is not only the strongest this year in terms of demand for freelance IT skills -- it is also stronger than any month of 2016.

Moreover, according to the confederation’s Report on Jobs series, the last time the IT contractor index showed a higher score was as far back as April 2015 (when it was at 62.2).

Three factors were identified in the latest report as driving strong demand for many types of workers last month, but they seem especially applicable to IT contractors.

They are; an exodus of EU staff (the REC says “droves” are leaving the UK); a NHS turning “increasingly reliant on short-term” expertise, and a shortage of cyber security skills.

The latter is not new. For at least three months in a row, REC member agencies have consistently reported Cyber Security as lacking practitioners able to work as contractors.

May was no exception -- IT security is cited in the report as scarce on a contract basis, alongside ‘Generalist IT’ contractors, Digital Development freelancers and CAD Design.

Shortages of IT skills for full-time jobs were worse, with agencies short of permies skilled in 14 IT specialisms including Python, C#, Data Analytics, Java, .Net, Software Development and, again, Cyber Security.  

“In many sectors we need more, not fewer people so that businesses can grow and public services continue to deliver,” said REC policy director Tom Hadley.

“Whichever party forms the next government must focus on improving the employability of our young people and boosting inclusion for underrepresented groups.”

Turning to the stubborn shortage of IT security skills, Hadley said it was a “particular concern” for many organisations in the wake of the high-profile WannaCry attacks.

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