What impact is the Covid-19 crisis having on the UK tech sector?

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The UK’s tech industry – the fastest growing sector in the UK* – will maintain resilience despite the Covid-19 outbreak, according to new analysis from global recruiter Robert Walters.

In Q1 of this year, permanent job vacancies in the tech sector increased by +32.56%, and contract tech roles increased by +48.27% – when compared with the same period last year (JobFeed data).

*tech sector growing at 2.6x rate of UK economy, and London has been ranked as the second most connected place for tech in the world behind Silicon Valley in the US – Tech Nation Report

Ahsan Iqbal, Director of Technology at Robert Walters comments: “At the moment, the tech sector has experienced a spike in demand and so – unlike other industries such as aerospace – no immediate impact has been felt regarding hiring freezes.”

Tech job vacancies are up (compared to the same period last year) in Manchester (+44.33%), Birmingham (+27.29%), Milton Keynes (+26.95%), and in London (+16.60%) (JobFeed data).

Of the new professional job roles created at the beginning of this week in the capital London (w/c 23 March), 25% of these were tech-related (Vacancy Soft data).

Following the government’s postponement to the new off-payroll rules (IR35), Robert Walters experienced a spike in interest from firms seeking contractors – in particular for business-focussed or critical roles within tech.

Ahsan adds: “As digital infrastructure becomes the focal point for many internal business discussions, we do not anticipate a cancellation or slowdown in tech projects.

“In fact, there will be a revised focus on firms’ digital offering, with particular attention on improving e-comms channels through better CRM systems, upgraded website capabilities, improved security and enhanced accessibility and use of data.”

Of the new tech-related contract roles created in the last four weeks in the UK, a fifth (18%) of these were for programmers, and 13% was for consultants & specialists, and support staff.

Ahsan comments: “As pressure mounts in the coming weeks and months on IT departments to help support remote working capabilities as well as business continuity plans, firms will look to strengthen their team with contract staff who have prior experience of in-house systems and a provide a strong sense of being able to ‘hit the ground running.”

According to the Robert Walters Contractor Pay Guide, competition will increase for traditional areas including developers, data, security and cloud professionals – pushing contract rates up as much as 25-30%.

Whilst Robert Walters analysts state that it is too early to report on any impact to hiring and long-term recruitment impact, it has been able to highlight industries that are already leading the way in the tech-sphere.

Ahsan concludes: “The UK was already pioneering work within healthtech and edtech, and now more than ever this will be put to the test. In addition, technology that underpins remote working – such as cloud computing, business apps, mobile tools, unified communications, project management tools, and video conferencing – will be no doubt be rapidly hiring as demand for their tools increase.

“Retailers who didn’t invest in e-commerce will be going through a difficult period right now, and will have to assess whether they have the resources to be able to enhance this for future, competitive purposes. Of the tech roles advertised in the last four weeks, 13% of these were in trade or retail.

“Other areas of opportunity will be in insurtech, supply chain and agritech – as after health these are some of the industries experiencing the highest level of demand.”

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