Five IT contractor skills you will want to have, as covid-lockdown lifts

We’re now well over 100 days into coronavirus lockdown and some of our offices are reopening to put IT contractors back in the field, as we start to embrace the ‘new normal.’

But what agents, suppliers, clients and contractors have all endured in 2020’s first quarter will still leave an indelible mark in the months to come, writes APSCo IT sector group chair Ben Broughton, managing director of engineering and tech staffing firm Premier Group.

Working from home? You'll stay there for the medium to long-term

In fact due to the pandemic, without doubt there will be a long-lasting change to the technology sector, as well as the skills it requires from the contractors within it. 

In the last three months specifically, we’ve seen demand dramatically increase for IT Security Specialists, partly because working from home has become the new norm for the majority of companies. Indeed, UK-wide, our database shows that over 60% of UK businesses are keeping their “entire” workforce remote “for the medium to long term.”

The fundamental five: all thanks to covid

From speaking to a number of our clients, and based on feedback from the multiple virtual events we have been running during the shutdown, here are what we believe to be the top five most in-demand IT or technology skills as this lockdown continues to lift.

1. Security

We have seen a dramatic rise for companies looking to secure their data in the new remote working environment. As pay in this area has been seeing a consistent increase since the beginning of 2020, we see this uplift continuing. On the permanent side, the salary for ‘Head of Cyber and Information Security’ tends to start at £120,000 a year in London. On the contract side, day rates top out at £800 per day.

2. Collaboration tools

More than two-thirds of companies on our books say that they have increased usage on collaborative tools such as MS Teams and Zoom in lockdown. Well, fortunately for IT contractors, implementation and management of these tools is proving vital as we come out of lockdown. Freelancers specialising in collaboration and implementation are commanding between £350 and £500 per day.

3. Data

It may have been big going into lockdown -- but it’s even bigger coming out. We have seen a solid four per cent increase in ‘Data Analyst’ roles during lockdown, at a time when other tech specialisms and markets have decreased dramatically. Data analysts can get to work for £400 a day, but the top ones can command up to £600 a day.

4. Infrastructure

The good conditions for Cloud / AWS specialists just got even better, thanks to covid-19. As companies now have to manage 500 different environments rather than just a single environment with almost all their users now being at home, this expansion will mean more demand on these teams to deliver a business-critical, 100% up-time solution. Little wonder, we’ve seen contracts for Cloud Engineers receive a 15% increase on day rates in the last four months, so they can now pocket anything from £300 a day, up to £550 per day.

5. Development

The need for high-level developers in core languages such as Open Source and Microsoft technologies has not waivered coming out of lockdown.

As e-commerce booms, we have seen a demand from clients who want to secure the top talent in the market, knowing that other firms are scaling back their hiring. We have seen an increase of four per cent on senior level developer salaries from companies who are hiring the top two per cent of talent in the market. The result for contractors? Day rates are a minimum of £350, and a maximum of £600.

Final thought

In these still uncertain times, organisations need a workforce that they can expand and contract as demand dictates. My belief is that there will be a spike in contract work due to clients looking for flexibility in their skills resource, so they can scale up or down, before stability can return to the UK economy.

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Written by Ben Broughton

Ben Broughton is Chair of APSCo’s IT Sector Group and Managing Director of Premier Group, an IT & Engineering recruitment firm. Following on from a successful career with a large IT Recruitment business he joined Premier in 2007. He is responsible for the strategic growth and expansion of the business across its one US site and four UK sites.

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