Top 5 IT contractor skills now and in 2023

The labour market for IT contractors remains fairly strong. We have seen the number of temporary technology roles on offer drop slightly recently, but it’s within 25 per cent of the peaks we saw in September, and a lot of the drop is seasonal, writes Adrian Smith, senior director of operations at Randstad UK.

However, not all contractors are effortlessly cruising into a job. Some of their skills are more in demand than others. 

Here, exclusively for ContractorUK, we disclose the top five ‘hot’ skills to see you through the cold snap -- and beyond. Indeed, these skills will be doing a brisk business for IT contractors even in the coming weeks but will continue to be sought-after in Q1 2023, too.

1. ICT practitioners /officers

The first is knowledge and experience within the ICT environment - preferably within end device management. 

We are recruiting for such ICT roles from Cardiff in Wales to Leicester in the East Midlands, as well as the East of England. 

Employers are looking out for candidates who are able to make wholesale changes to large end device estate; people who can understand risks in making such changes, and those with a good understanding of ITIL Service Asset and Configuration management. 

Want a premium for your time? That’s fine but you’ll also need knowledge of toolsets such as Ivanti, McAfee, Sophos, Airwatch, Bitlocker. 

Network and Systems Infrastructure is popular as well, as is experience with scripting (powershell, perl, C, C++, C⋕, Javascript, Python, Java -- possibly Rust). Knowledge of TCP/IP stack is useful too, and likewise is experience with firewall or Sonicwall.  Ideally, clients advertising in this space want their people to understand and have experience using security tools. We’ve seen a sea-change in pay for ICT Officers, with typical pay of around £500 per day.

2. DevOps

When it comes to DevOps, which is second on our five-strong list, again the roles are across the spectrum by being scattered pretty wide from Yorkshire to the South West.

Clients are keen on engineers who are confident in implementing, maintaining, and standardising the infrastructure of the company using Azure and AWS (highest demand), as well as GCP applications. 

Automation scripting is hot in devops but not just python - Bash or Powershell are good, too.  Diagnosing system and network failure are useful skills, as are designing and implementing tasks in CI/CD pipelines.

Clients in this space typically need agencies to pay their IT workers PAYE rather than as ‘Ltd’ workers. But that’s driven up pay. DevOps are  typically being paid £675 a day at the moment, but lead development operations engineers can earn £850. This represents an almost 10 per cent premium on what was being commanded over the last year. 

3. Data Analysis

Third, it’s data analysis skills -- probably one of the hotter skill-sets of all at the moment.  Indeed, we’re currently recruiting for one data analyst on £450 per day over a 6-month contract. 

Clients are after people who can mine data and extract information from data sets and identify correlations and patterns. Analysing data. Identifying trends. Providing management with valuable information that will be used to create reports.  

On the soft skill side of things, clients value people who are methodical, and have good attention to detail (and can demonstrate that through their previous work). 

Communication skills are also critical -- you need to communicate with stakeholders to understand business requirements and explain data content. I’d say analysis skills are much ‘hotter’ than they were, and roles relying on these skills probably pay about 10% more than they did a year ago. 

4. Power BI

Related to this is the fourth IT contractor skill you could do with being gifted this Christmas -- Power BI. 

To be a successful data analyst, you have to have strong data visualisation and reporting skills - Microsoft Power BI is essential to visualise data in easy-to-understand formats, such as diagrams and graphs. 

Right now, we’re recruiting for Power BI developers to work on contracts up to £625 a day. It’s not even a question of where the jobs are either, as some are remote. But why are Power BI skills so hot? Supply and demand - it’s as simple as that. 

5. Infrastructure management

At the top of the tree though (this list is in no particular order), are infrastructure management skills. 

Naturally, the demand for these skills are reflected in pay rates. By way of example, we are currently recruiting for one role (in Bristol) on up to £800 per day for a company looking for a contractor to lead up a small IT team and ensure best-practice throughout network and server infrastructure and security within the company. 

Yes, you need to be able to implement, operate and support the network, application and end user infrastructure.  Yes, you need to ensure all infrastructure services are managed and supported and that 3rd line support tickets are resolved. But it’s the soft skills that make the best contractors stand out from the crowd here. Those of you who can manage others and those of you who can oversee and take ownership of projects will command the most. 

And while it’s related, it could almost be skill six not to be sniffed at -- project management. It continues to be a skill that clients across the board are very interested in, and the roles are probably paying 7 per cent more than they were last year. 

Final thought

If you’re simply too busy and in demand as an IT contractor to have read the above, and have instead just scrolled down here, right to the end – you already know, but it’s worth reiterating. Management / leadership and social skills / communication, plus stakeholder management: those are the areas where the money is at for IT contractors, and will continue to be in 2023.

Friday 16th Dec 2022
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Written by Adrian Smith

Adrian Smith is the senior director of operations for recruiter Randstad UK. He has worked for Randstad since 2002 when he joined as a consultant. Educated at Loughborough and the Sorbonne, he enjoys rugby, sailing, and winter sports.


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