Nationwide anxiety since Brexit has been high, and the uncertainty of Britain’s financial and political direction can make predicting the future of the labour market—specifically the tech market—less than perfect science. According to a study by techUK, the estimated 600,000 vacancies in tech roles cost the nation £63 billion a year—though many remain optimistic for a swift recovery.
For employers, role vacancies can be a real problem, and lack of clarity about whether EU citizens can work in the UK or not is raising major sourcing concerns. For candidates, the tech shortage is significantly less ominous, as an abundance of hard-to-fill tech positions could mean less competition between specialised workers. But what’s behind the major tech worker shortage in high-level roles?
Senior positions remain the hardest to fill
Indeed.com’s analysts looked at all UK postings on its job board over the last year. Jobs that remained vacant for 60 days or more were classed as ‘hard to fill’. The results were then compared against the total number of postings for each job to determine which roles had the highest proportion of ‘hard to fill’ postings.
Senior positions dominate the list of careers that employers are struggling to fill. Six of the ten are advanced roles in data modeling, programming, tech consulting, back-end development, automation and test engineering. Regardless of seniority, all of the roles that make the list are highly specialised, creating unique sourcing challenges among recruiters and hiring managers who don’t have years to wait.
This is great news for tech workers. Indeed.com says that “lots of tech companies are looking to hire, which makes it a great time to be a tech worker. The power lies with the job seekers, whose skills and specialisms are in demand for roles that employers are having to be patient in filling”.
Across the board, there doesn’t seem to be a correlation between how difficult the role is to fill and the average salary. For example, the highest paying role on the list is Principal Software Engineer at £62,303 with a 51.6% difficulty rating. Compare this to the first place position, Senior Data Modeler, with a difficult-to-fill rating of 65.15% but an average salary of nearly half of a Principal Software Engineer.
Even when you take a step back and look at the hardest-to-fill roles in the overall labour market, six of the ten are tech roles.
The tech roles making this list are software engineer, software architect, front-end developer, system engineer, software test engineer and full stack developer, with all six on the list pulling in salaries higher than the national average of £27,600.
The challenge lies with employers as tech workers gain control
Experts are pointing fingers at Brexit as the primary catalyst for these sourcing challenges. According to London Loves Business, “given there is already difficulty in filling these roles, there is rising concern among employers that post-Brexit constraints on the ability of EU citizens to work in the UK could make it even harder for British bosses to source workers”. In other words, these post-Brexit policies have cut an already limited talent pool of tech workers across the UK.
When it comes to hiring strategies, employers need to get creative. According to Bill Richards, the UK managing director of Indeed, “finding the right staff requires a winning blend of hiring strategies. But the current jobs market has raised the bar for many employers”. This mentality underscores the fact that job seekers truly do hold the power in this scrappy sourcing environment.
Speaking on how the political and economic climate has impacted the tech talent pool, Richards continues:
The Brexit connection is hard to overlook. Many of the ‘hardest to fill’ roles have historically been ones that were filled by EU workers drawn to the UK by Britain’s more abundant job opportunities. With official data showing net migration from the EU slowing, these roles are set to become even harder to fill…. Clearly, in a tight labour market like ours, much of the power already sits with the workers, but these roles that are notoriously hard to fill could prove especially fruitful for ambitious job seekers looking for a new challenge.
For tech workers paying close attention, it could be a worthwhile use of time to pursue a new forte in the industry. For example, instead of a graduate using their computer science degree to jump into a front-end career path, consider focusing on a data modeling path. Tech freshers ought to keep an eye on these lucrative, low-competition roles to guide their university trajectory.
Tech shortages could inspire opportunistic job seekers
According to Olly Newton, Director of Policy and Research at the Edge Foundation as well as the author of the report, Skills Shortages in the UK Economy, “if things continue as they are, in a couple of years there will be one million tech vacancies in the UK, and yet the number of students taking IT and computing GCSEs in schools has fallen by almost 15,000 (11 percent) in the last year alone”. This further emphasizes the increasing demand to fill roles and the decreasing competition between job seekers to at least sustain for the foreseeable future. Opportunistic job seekers should take advantage of the occasion to land one of these lucrative roles.
Still, the struggle to fill specific tech roles hints at the accelerated growth of skilled worker shortages across the UK. While the forecast looks rough for employers, these anticipated shortages in talent can lead to rising salaries to encourage a new wave of applicants. For those who are experts in data modeling, systems consulting and the like, the UK promises a thriving and lucrative future for highly specialised and senior-level tech professionals in the years to come.