IT contractor skills: Covid-19 is causing a changing of the guard, and it’s not over yet

It’s no understatement to say that the Covid-19 crisis has caused huge shifts to our way of working.

It has transformed industry landscapes beyond recognition and made clear just how integral professional technology contractors are to this new working order, writes James Milligan, director of UK, Ireland and EMEA for technology and project solutions at Hays.

Increased demand for products and services, the rise in ecommerce and booms in MedTech, EdTech and cyber security just to name a few, have shifted the skills required of tech professionals today and more specifically, what is expected of tech contractors when they go forward for new opportunities.

Cyber security

The coronavirus-inspired increased use of remote and personal devices for work purposes, along with new accounts and greater access to remote systems, has put company infrastructure at increased risk of hackers and breaches.

In terms of day rates, according to the Hays Tech Contractor Day Rate Guide 2020, more senior roles can expect day rates upwards of £650, whereas rates for more junior roles are around £450.

Top cyber security talent, which is already in demand, will remain indispensable as agile working practices continue for the foreseeable future.

Cloud infrastructure

Unsurprisingly, with the mass transition to home working within the last couple of months due to the pandemic forcing offices to close, cloud and infrastructure skills have also increased in demand. The acceleration of the deployment of cloud infrastructure – AWS, Azure & G Cloud and applications such as Microsoft Teams and Office 365, means that experienced cloud infrastructure skills have become more sought-after.

Contractors working as AWS architects or engineers can expect day rates between £450 and £650, but our data indicates that this can be higher in certain regions such as the South East.

As we move to more hybrid ways of working, business will need to continue optimising this infrastructure which will likely lead to higher rates for tech contractors in this area. Even before the advent of the pandemic, contractors working in cloud infrastructure saw a 2.9% day rate increase over the past year driven by an increase in cloud-based systems and apps.

Data science

Data scientists are also taking increased precedence, particularly in the public sector. Organisations there are looking to data insights to map the spread of Covid-19, model the impact of the pandemic on their business and what measures need to be taken forward.

Day rates for Data Architects tend to fall in the region of £550 to £625, followed by Data Scientists where rates are between £450 and £600, depending on location. Rates for Data Managers and Data Engineers are fairly comparable and tend to start at around £400.

Change management and software skills

Finally, the unprecedented speed with which organisations have had to react to the outbreak of covid-19 has heightened demand for change management skills to facilitate this. In fact, almost half (44%) of employers surveyed in our day rate guide said project and change management skills were sought-after in their organisation. Even more in demand are software development skills cited by 57% of respondents. These skills are in need to build new systems designed to manage ongoing change and challenge.

Upskilling, updating and, unflappable?  

Ultimately, all IT and tech contractors will need to actively upskill to stay ahead of the covid-created curve and put themselves forward as strong candidates in today’s changed world of work. We’d advise contractors to actively upskill in new areas of tech, particularly those outlined above, to avoid letting their skillset ‘expire’ and losing touch with the strong current of change in the industry, which the pandemic has triggered.

As to practical quick-wins contractors can implement now, if you have used your downtime or lockdown to acquire some new expertise, it’s essential that you document this on your CV. Not only will an end-user be attracted to a wider and up-to-date skillset, but you’ll also stand out as a professional who is ambitious and uses your time proactively – which is a huge asset for anyone poised to start a contract role.

It will also help you talk with ease in interviews, where you need to be prepared for potential hirers or decision-makers to ask you how you have spent your time during lockdown. Even if you are caught off-guard, try to see this as a positive opportunity to profile your upskilling or demonstrate resilience during what has been a challenging situation for so many –  and that’s before the challenge of getting your head around how IT contractor skill requirements are shifting under this pandemic, which isn’t over yet.

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Written by James Milligan

James is Director of Hays IT, Digital Technology and Project Solutions in the UK, Ireland and EMEA. Having joined in 2000, he is responsible for the strategy of Hays’ Project Solutions, IT and Digital Technology businesses.
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