How AI is changing the IT contractor jobs market in 2023

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is at the forefront of discussions about the future of work today, as it has very recently rapidly advanced to become more accessible to a wide audience.

The most significant development in AI over the last 12 months is undoubtedly the growth and adoption of generative AI tools and large language models such as ChatGPT.

The question is, writes Tim Olsen, a director at Hays specialising in Technology and Intelligent Automation, how will AI tools and technologies impact the IT contractor market?

Certain contractor roles could be at risk from Artificial Intelligence

Although we haven’t so far witnessed major changes to contractor roles as a result of AI, we are beginning to see the impact of AI unfold, as its presence grows across a number of areas.

For example, contractors in charge of carrying out repetitive, information-processing tasks like data entry could be at risk, as these activities are ripe for automation.

On top of this, generative AI is now writing, debugging and delivering almost 50% of the code in some organisations, reducing the need for junior developers. Tech-writing contractors, copywriters, transcribers and other documentation-focused contractors may also experience increased competition because AI writing assistants can generate articles, reports and other content.

The grey area

Potentially more positively though if your role is one of those with a potential question mark over it due to the wider adoption of Artificial Intelligence, the part which AI is starting to play in the workplace isn’t black and white -- and AI could actually support roles rather than replace them.

For instance, data analysts and researchers who are contracted to manually gather, clean and analyse datasets could face competition from AI tools which have the capability to automate aspects of their work. On the other hand, skilled analysts are essential to deploy AI successfully, illustrating the need for professionals to collaborate with these new technologies.

While AI systems can generate findings and advice, rather than threatening consultants and industry experts who provide insights and recommendations, this could lead to an increase in demand for these professionals with AI delivery skills. That may explain why we are starting to see ‘AI’ included in job titles and requirements. So right now, there is a growing demand for roles like ‘AI engineers’ and ‘solution architects with AI knowledge,’ which is reinforcing the idea that we should work alongside AI, rather than fear or resent it.

The advantages and challenges of AI

AI could bring about many benefits for contractors and organisations alike, such as improved efficiency, productivity, speed and cost-savings on various projects. It almost goes without saying that contractors who can use AI to their advantage will stand out to hiring decision-makers, versus other contractors who do not. Having AI in your toolkit as a contractor will therefore potentially act as leverage, giving you a greater chance of achieving the rate or other contractual perks you might want, especially in such a skills-short market.

Less positively, AI looks like it will increase the already quite overwhelming pressure for contractors to constantly learn new skills to stay relevant. But if you prefer the glass half full, then, these rapid developments in AI present valuable opportunities for contractors to upskill in order to future-proof their careers.

And unlike other technologies that seem to take over, the rise of AI places emphasis on the importance of ‘soft skills’, so contractors can focus on enhancing their irreplaceable human skills like leadership, strategy, design, creativity and even interpersonal skills such as communication.  

Inevitably, there are several risks of workplaces totally relying on AI. These risks include the displacement of contractors, as certain repetitive roles, like data entry, head towards automation. As a contractor in your own IT department, I’d say that for similar reasons, it’s crucial to question the extent to which AI can be trusted completely, starting with double-checking the reliability of its outputs.

What the future with AI in it might hold for the contractor market

Looking ahead, the contractor market will continue to evolve alongside advances in AI. While certain jobs might be replaced, new AI-focused roles will emerge and the necessity for contractors who can build, manage, and integrate AI systems will grow.

Employers may increasingly look for a balance of AI and human contractors tailored to their needs, which will accelerate as organisations get to grips with the adoption of AI and either utilise new off-the-shelf solutions or build their own systems.

Contractors should gain skills in collaborating with AI, managing AI projects, and delivering creative human judgement and oversight on top of AI systems. Organisations need strategies for integrating AI with human contractors, and that extends to training and upskilling freelance professionals and consultants to use these new technologies – including the usage of AI responsibly. With the right preparation, we believe both contractors and employers can harness the advantages of AI while minimising the risks and disruptions.

Be under no illusion, AI is already starting to shake-up the contractor market today in 2023, and this is only likely to accelerate in 2024, 2025 and beyond, as the technology matures. Contractors and their end-clients who recognise this now -- and proactively adapt will unquestionably be best placed to benefit from the AI revolution ahead.

Profile picture for user Tim Olsen

Written by Tim Olsen

Tim Olsen is a director at Hays specialising in technology and intelligent automation. Tim has over 20 years’ experience of bringing leading-edge solutions to organisations and scaled the UK’s largest robotic process automation programme. He is a futurist and a leading influencer on LinkedIn for all things automation and future of work.

Printer Friendly, PDF & Email

Contractor's Question

If you have a question about contracting please feel free to ask us!

Ask a question

Sign up to our newsletter

Receive weekly contractor news, advice and updates.

Every sign up will be entered into a draw to WIN £100 Amazon Vouchers.

* indicates required