The most surprising finding was that over 70% of respondents said that they were considering working abroad in search of perceived increases in job security and opportunity. What's more, even those looking to carry on working in the UK seemed predominantly unsettled in their current role with 92% admitting that they are either actively seeking work or at least keeping an eye on the job market.
In addition, a significant proportion of respondents (over 35%) said that they were considering work completely away from the IT industry.
What these findings demonstrate is that uncertainty still dominates the UK IT industry; employers are under increased pressure to achieve efficiencies and employees are starting to feel the impact of such pressures and constraints. As a result many are looking abroad or in some cases, deciding they have had enough of the IT industry all together - something which needs to be addressed.
As has been widely reported, the UK has faced an ongoing concern over skills shortages within the IT industry so losing further intellectual capital to other markets is a situation our economy cannot afford, especially as we look ahead to the prospect of economic recovery in the short-term. However, for those as closely involved with shaping and managing employment across the UK economy as we are, these research findings reflect real opportunity as well as highlighting potential concerns.
Employers who are willing to demonstrate a commitment to their employees and a progressive approach to the challenges of today's working environment have the potential to retain and attract the best candidates as they prepare for the upturn.
Over the past three months, we've noticed a desire for job security among candidates with an influx of IT staff looking to work in SMEs. Over 70% of IT placements made by Computer People in the past three months have gone to Britain's small businesses. As the economic downturn deepens, it seems that an increasing number of IT staff are turning to SMEs to provide them with a different career path and new opportunities.
Though the IT industry isn't immune from the effects of the economic downturn, one thing we are seeing is that it is unlocking talent that would previously have been unavailable for firms at a certain level to reach. Much as we saw happening in the City at the tail end of last year, high-flying professionals are now reconsidering careers with bigger firms, and are instead considering the perceived security of SMEs.
With 13.5 million people working within small businesses in the UK, the phrase' good things come in small packages' is becoming more and more applicable. IT professionals in particular are keen for a greater level of responsibility, ownership and variety in their day-to-day job, something they believe the SME market can offer them.
Technology based SMEs have proven to be extremely attractive to candidates keen to take their career to the next level. SMEs offer professionals a chance to make their voice heard and see the benefits to the business first hand.
With businesses keeping an extremely close eye on all spending, departments are being asked to demonstrate tangible benefits from all of their investment. Analysts are required to monitor and report against credit risk, marketing campaigns and customer insight and loyalty among others. With this data they extract, businesses are able to understand their customers and clients in order to match their needs with more targeted investment.
Sectors such as financial, marketing, retail and utilities invest heavily in analytics, but in our experience, almost every sector can benefit from such insight.
For people looking to change careers within the IT sector, or for those entering the workplace after university, an analytics qualification can be a very desirable skill to acquire. The sector has been extremely buoyant and shows little sign of slowing down. Furthermore, the skills are extremely transferable and can allow for easy transition to working in many other sectors.
Those coming from a numerical background in particular, will find the transition to analytical work very natural. However, for anyone with a basic IT skill set, the addition of an analytical qualification can be a very wise investment which, in the long-term, can lead to a varied and rewarding career working within a broad range of opportunities.
Hope for green shoots of economic recovery, especially within the IT sector, are likely to be further bolstered by the Government's Digital Britain Report, which has pledged to invest 23m to encourage smaller businesses invest in IT in order to help improve their business.
As the potential demand for IT workers, both permanent and contract, looks set to reflect a small rise in demand, candidates may find themselves in a slightly stronger position when it comes to negotiating terms than they have been in the recent past. If so, it's important to keep a few points in mind:
Firstly, research. If negotiating money, candidates need to be aware of the current jobs market - what's available and how reasonable their current rate is. This may have changed in recent weeks and months so be sure to keep a constant eye on the market.
Secondly it's important to be sensitive to your employer's current state. If the organisation has or is looking to make redundancies, or has posted poor financial figures recently, it may be unreasonable to even approach a discussion about higher pay rates.
Also, candidates should look at their skills set and their experience and gauge this against the current jobs market and their colleagues in similar positions. Be clear about your skills and qualifications and your experience within an industry; it's important to be absolutely sure how these benchmark you amongst others in your specialisation.
Finally, it's important to maintain a sense of perspective. The Government investment will certainly be the first helpful step on the road to recovery, but it is, after all, just that - a first step. Employers are still likely to be cautious when it comes to making new hires and deciding what financial commitments they are willing to take on, so be willing to compromise where necessary.
There is currently a real need for businesses executives at the top end of large and complex organisations to understand exactly what's happening on the lower levels and one of the best ways they can access this information is through Business Intelligence (BI) tools.
In recent times BI systems have become increasingly sophisticated, which combined with the economic downturn, has lead to a huge increase in the number of businesses and organisations choosing to implement these systems to increase profit margins wherever possible.
BI offers the ability to analyse in great detail exactly what's happening in a business and where cost can be cut. For example, many organisations rely on multiple databases containing a variety of business-critical data - orders, sales information, contacts, supplier, invoicing information and much more. Skilled Business Intelligence workers are able to develop applications in which data can pooled into a data warehouse, from which organisations can run a variety of reports, build data relationships and pull out relevant information that they need.
Keeping on top of corporate data is integral to running a successful organisation and we're finding that many big companies are investing time, funds and resources in BI technology, BI consultancy and developing in-house skills to best analyse the data they have at their disposal. Even smaller establishments and companies are seeing the value of recruiting individuals with specialist skills in this area. Some organisations choose to enlist BI expertise to set up a system and train existing employees to create an internal team responsible for BI.
As a result, it's unlikely that the need for BI will reduce in the short-term as companies are always likely to analyse their operations. As such, all information skills, technologies, applications and practices used to help a business acquire a better perception of their current position will continue to be desirable.
BI is an area of expertise that could help to build a long-lasting and rewarding career in IT and for candidates who think it might be the right fit for them, there are certainly many opportunities out there to be taken.
While there was a time when job seekers could afford to be choosy about the roles they took on, which company they worked for and the hours they worked, unfortunately, there's no doubt recession and large-scale redundancies have had an impact on the IT industry, turning the job-scene very much into a buyer's market. As candidates find themselves competing with many others for fewer roles, flexibility will be a key factor on deciding who gets the job.
Although there are definitely jobs available in the market, especially for those with specialist skills and relevant experience, candidates who are willing to show flexibility in their requirements do give themselves an added advantage. Whether it involves taking on a different role than you're used to, working different hours than usual or considering short term rather than longer term contract work, a willingness to adapt to the changing needs of the market could be the one key skill that propels you to the top of a potential employer's list.
Nor does flexibility necessarily involve making sacrifices; one very positive effect of the new jobs market is that it has removed some of the barriers that have stopped candidates putting themselves forward for certain roles in the past. Perceptions about the kind of roles and responsibilities they could get or take on have often caused candidates to take a cautious approach to job-seeking in the past. Now, however, as employers demonstrably place more value on specific skills (rather than generic 'IT skills') and a willingness to understand the wider business context, candidates are in a position to explore avenues that they may not once have considered, whether that involves applying for a different type of role, considering a change in sector or approaching a different kind of organisation.
As long as they remain realistic and willing to negotiate, there are still many opportunities for IT workers in today's market; while knowledge and skills are always important, a change in mindset can be the key factor that makes the difference between finding or keeping a job and not.
Gaining experience during a period when the number of readily-available jobs is steadily declining may seem easier said than done, the importance of this seemingly obvious step cannot be overestimated. Although skills and knowledge are very important elements to building a strong CV, an increasing number of employers are looking at practical experience within a relevant field or role as an equally important factor in choosing the right candidate for a job.
For university students or fresh graduates, the process of gaining relevant experience may seem easier as placement schemes can be a good way to get a foot in the door to the IT departments of some great companies. While the pay is rarely significant (and in many cases is non-existent) for these roles, having relevant, real-life experience within a business environment adds considerable value to a CV which will stand candidates in good stead throughout their career.
For those already in jobs, the process may not be as straightforward but can be very rewarding, both from a CV-building perspective but also as a networking exercise. In many cases, employers may be quite willing to let existing employees take ownership of projects or additional responsibilities that would otherwise require them to bring in additional, external resources that they can ill afford. For an employee, this is not only a great way to prove their worth to their current employer but also a chance to build up their credentials for when the next job-hunt begins.
The last decade has seen huge investment in ICT for schools, with a figure approaching £5bn being dedicated to technology and innovation. And with a further £857m earmarked for schools in the next three years, Britain could in many ways be seen as leading the charge with technology in the classroom. Some 99% of schools have made the switch to broadband, and over half have interactive whiteboards in the classroom. Add to this the successful 'Computers for Schools' initiative, which has already benefited some 100,000 young people in the UK as well as Civica's recent deployment of IT services to a number of secondary schools; we can soundly say the education sector is a thriving area of opportunities for IT professionals.
It's often noted that the public sector has some great prospects for IT professionals and the field of education is no different. With budgets available and long-term investment planned by the Government, the education sector remains one of the few that is actively recruiting for skilled IT workers, even in therse difficult times. Educational software packages, school hardware and increased investment in school technology infrastructure, present a number of job openings for both graduates and seasoned IT professionals.
In terms of breaking into the industry, education is similar to many other areas of the public sector. Having relevant experience working in education will of course give you an advantage but it isn't the be all and end all for prospective employers. Accreditations go a long way in any IT job application so highlight any that you already have or consider investing in a few relevant courses to get a few! There are several key players in the education technology market and even some that cater soely to the education sector; as such there will be opportunities available for the right candidate.
With the ever changing nature of the IT industry, so called 'growth areas' tend to come and go on a regular basis. However education appears to be one sector which bucks the trend, making it the place to be in IT circles.
As public awareness and government agenda put pressure on companies to adopt more environmentally sound policies, opportunities for those who fancy “saving the world” are on the rise. Green technologies such as videoconferencing, virtualisation and power management are all hot topics at the moment and as adoption rates increase, demand for IT staff to maintain, run and manage these systems has risen accordingly.
Green IT has come to prominence over recent years as businesses look to cut energy costs and the need for business travel. Many organisations have already begun to implement green initiatives; with a number of larger companies even having dedicated CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) teams to oversee the companies green goals. For the business the benefits are clear, allowing them to reduce overheads, cut carbon emissions and communicate their green status to their customers and stakeholders.
For IT professionals, the benefits are also there for the taking. As companies invest in a greener future, they need staff with the right skills and attributes to handle and oversee the smooth running of new technologies and new systems.What is also encouraging, is that the green IT market is constantly expanding, meaning a steady stream of jobs should be available in the years to come. If you are thinking of taking a fresh direction in your career, getting up-to-speed on green IT could set you on the right path to better, greener things.