Growth in demand for IT contractors inched up in April

Demand for IT contractors barely improved in April from its almost three-year low in March, even though Brexit uncertainty is now starting to favour such temporary hires.

On the freelance IT staff index of the REC, demand is now up to 54.3 from 54.2 previously, so technically an increase, but shy of a new “bounce back” in temporary billings overall.

The agency body explained: “Employers are turning to temporary work to support their business and offer people opportunity while the long-term economic picture is unclear.”

'Steep rate increases'

Writing in the REC’s Report on Jobs, co-author KPMG agreed: “Now is a good time to be a temp with steep increases in pay for both day rate and short contract workers.”

Concern over Brexit, prompting workers and hirers to ‘wait to see which direction it will go in,’ is behind contractors and contracting returning to favour, added KMPG’s vice chairman.

But James Stewart also says the apprehension is affecting the stock of candidates putting themselves forward, frustrating “firms in tech…who are experiencing a skills gap.”

'Shortages'

The gap seems to be closing, however. In March, the REC’s ‘hot’ list for positions contained 19 tech skills, versus 12 currently, and for contracts, it had 11 tech skills, versus 10 currently.

Now scarce for freelance contracts is Automation Testing, CAD; Data Analysis, Development, DevOps, Digital, Gaming, IT, Software Development and Technology.

All these technology skills suffered from "shortages" in April for full-time openings too, REC member agencies said, in addition to PHP Development and Cyber Security.

'Bold steps'

And while Brexit may be stopping candidates with such skills coming forward, the shortages will not disappear even once the UK’s protracted withdrawal from the EU completes.

“Resolving Brexit will bring some certainty, but we must also take bold steps to fix the underlying problems”, says Recruitment & Employment Confederation CEO Neil Carberry.

“[So we] are calling on the government to provide greater stability for businesses…including reforming the Apprenticeship Levy to allow training for agency workers so that they can fill shortage roles.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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