With Brexit looming and UK political alliances being mightily tested, there has been a renewed wave of fervent speculation about the impact to the UK jobs market. Various potential scenarios have been projected to show either dramatic change, with a drastic reduction in regional trade and people movement, or no change at all.
“It’s difficult to predict the future when so much has yet to be decided,” CompTIA Vice President of EMEA Graham Hunter said. “The terms of any Brexit deal will ultimately determine the way in which UK jobs are affected.”
Amidst the uncertainty around how Brexit will play out, a very real IT skills gap remains and urgently needs to be addressed. Concerns about this discrepancy between what employers expect from their employees and what skills their employees actually bring to the job permeate the IT sector.
Looking Past Brexit
CompTIA’s report Assessing the IT Skills Gap in the UK shows that 9 out of 10 employers participating in the study have witnessed the skills gap first-hand, and almost half of employers believe it is growing. Brexit complicates things, with one-third of UK managers who participated in the research fearing that Brexit will have a mostly negative effect on employment.
Still, nearly half (46 percent) expect that Brexit will bring both positive and negative impacts. These are important considerations when looking ahead to the IT jobs landscape in a post-Brexit UK.
At present, almost all responding firms (89 percent) feel that too many workers lack advanced skills, and a similar number (88 percent) fear that graduates are not prepared for today’s jobs.
Somewhat paradoxically, they also feel there are not enough workers to fill available jobs. Until recently, IT hiring managers could expect to reach a broader talent pool by looking internationally, but with Brexit on the horizon, some worry that it will become more difficult to do so.
“The IT industry has typically recruited from within the [European Union] due to the availability and freedom for economic migrants to work anywhere within the 28 nations,” Hunter said. “A change in policy to allow a wider pool of talent may offset this.”
Safeguarding Against Uncertainty
No matter what happens with Brexit, we know that IT employers in the UK want and need highly skilled employees in order to safeguard themselves against risk and change. The CompTIA Skills Gap Report shows that the top concern for UK employers around emerging technology is security and data privacy. As data breaches and malicious attacks grow increasingly sophisticated, that concern will surely remain.
Employers voiced strong concerns around three more areas:
- Internet of things (IoT)
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
While most organizations provide some degree of training and professional development for IT employees, regular upskilling and training must be an ongoing part of an employee’s tenure with a company, perhaps now more than ever.
A Changing IT Jobs Landscape
Today’s IT workers hold an industry advantage: they are able to be flexible with their location. Many jobs no longer require workers to be on site, and that can prove a valuable asset during challenging economic times.
“If we look within the United Kingdom, we see that talent is no longer just congregated in major hubs like London and along the M4 corridor,” Hunter said. “Companies are recognizing the need for a better work–life balance and more affordable locations for people to live. This is spreading talent to new areas of the [United Kingdom], from the southwest to the northern powerhouse cities. Having fast and robust broadband connections will only accelerate the diversification of these hubs.”
The United Kingdom is still home to a healthy and buoyant IT industry. The CompTIA UK IT Employment Snapshot for the fourth quarter of 2018 reports that IT jobs in the United Kingdom are set to grow by 3 percent between 2018 and 2023. In 2018 alone, more than 1 in 10 UK job postings were for an IT position.
Among those IT postings, employers looked for applicants who could demonstrate skills like communication, troubleshooting and creativity.
IT Will Always Need Skilled Workers
Regardless of where the United Kingdom lands following Brexit, we can say two things for certain:
- The skills gap is one of the most pressing issues facing our sector today.
- IT jobs will continue to play a vital and growing role in the United Kingdom’s workforce, and perhaps moreso in a post-Brexit scenario.
It is safe to say that employers will always prioritize a future-proof set of skills and a well-trained IT workforce, and Brexit will not change that.
“If there is one thing that IT employees are good at, it is keeping pace with an ever-increasing pace of technological change,” Hunter said. “IT has never been more pervasive.”
Download the report Assessing the IT Skills Gap in the UK to learn more.