Hot skills IT contractors will want as the cold snap of 2020 arrives

As we approach the tail-end of 2020, we expect to see this year’s turbulence reflected in contractor market activity.

But we anticipate a growing IT contractor market because the shockwaves of the coronavirus pandemic will set an appetite for flexibility and agility in resource-use, writes Darren Topping, a director at APSCo member and contract IT staffing specialists Lorien.

Although the upcoming IR35 legislation could see the contractor market hit initially in April 2021, we expect this blow to be short-lived. Organisations will quickly get used to working with the new off-payroll legislation, and those that get to grips with it quickly will be at an advantage – enabling them to scoop up the best talent on the market.

Against this backdrop is the inevitability that technology skills will still be massively in demand, and even a year as unforgiving as 2020 can’t stop fierce competition for tech talent. But what are the top IT contractor skills now, as the heart of the fourth quarter looms?

  • Cloud technology

As more companies migrate from traditional server environments to the cloud, there is growing need for contractors to support cloud infrastructure and engineering.

Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud were already big trends pegged for 2020, especially with the popularity of containerisation and virtualisation technology. And the pandemic will likely only accelerate this trend. We’re seeing particular demand for AWS, Microsoft Azure, Docker, DevOps and Kubernetes.

Cloud Engineer Day Rate: £450-£550

Cloud Consultant Day Rate: £550-£600

  • Cybersecurity

The pandemic has exposed system and infrastructure vulnerabilities for many organisations, especially with more people working from home.

Cybercrime has become more common, and companies will look to take protective action – especially as the risk environment becomes increasingly more complex.

Cybersecurity Analyst Day Rate: £450-£500

Security Engineer Day Rate: £500-£550

  • Full stack development

Full stack developers are always in demand, and with more companies moving their business online, we don’t see this changing any time soon.

The particular skillsets we are seeing most demand for are Java, JavaScript and Python.

Full Stack Developer Day Rate: £450-£500

Software Engineer Day Rate: £450-£550

  • Data

We continue to live in a data-driven world. Information helps companies understand their customers and their habits, improve products and service-offerings while boosting company performance. Even with tougher regulations on personal data (notably GDPR), companies will continue to use data to get closer to consumers and deliver more customised services. Demand is most frequently found in SQL.

Data Analyst Day Rate: £400-£450

Data Scientist Day Rate: £450-£500

  • Network Architecture and Engineering

More people working remotely due to workplace restrictions introduced to protect against the spread of covid-19 has put a strain on traditional network architecture. And with an increasing number of employees planning to never return to the office full-time, network skills are in high demand. This coincides with the arrival of 5G, which was already ramping up need for core telecommunications, network and architecture skills.

Network Architect Day Rate: £475-£525

Network Engineer Day Rate: £375-£425

  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Although we’re yet to realise the full potential of AI and ML in business, these skills are heating up as organisations look to get ahead of the curve. As more companies experiment with AI and ML, and as more use cases open up, we’re seeing a rise in demand for contractors with skills and experience in Natural Language Processing, AI, ML, RPA, TensorFlow and chatbot technology. And because these skillsets are relatively new, rates can be variable, so the below pay is an approximation only.

Machine Learning Engineer Day Rate: £500-£600

Robotics Process Automation Architect Day Rate: £500-£550

So what’s the IT contractor jobs market outlook for 2021?

So these are just six of the top IT contractor skills surging now and set to surge potentially further still at the end of 2020, and into the dawn of 2021. As to the general outlook and despite the unpredictability of coronavirus, if anything, we predict a rise in need for tech skills, given that organisations see harnessing digital as a gateway to greater agility.  And immediate demand with the backdrop of uncertainty will almost certainly mean an uptick in contractor usage too.

Profile picture for user Darren Topping

Written by Darren Topping

As Director of Solutions & Insight, Darren is responsible for client solutions and innovation including our consulting services which incorporates such programmes such as workforce planning, diverse hiring improvement and our technology academy Tech amongst other services. Darren has been with Lorien for over 12 years and in his role as Account Director for a Technology services client managed a service that delivered in excess of over 1000 contractors per year.
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