A new survey suggests that contracting IT professionals in the UK are actually benefitting from persistent Brexit uncertainties, as employers switch to more non-permanent hires and offer longer contracts.
The survey found that more UK businesses hired more independent contracting IT pros over the last six months than they had done in the preceding half-year. The average duration of the contracts on offer also appears to have extended.
The survey of 600 IT contractors found that 9% of employers hired contracting IT professionals over the last six months compared to just 3.4% in the previous six months. More than 31% of the contractors reported that they were now obtaining 12-month contracts as opposed to just 23.6% in the first half of the year.
Pay rates also appear to be on the rise. 23.7% of the respondents confirmed that their daily rate had increased over the last six months, a small but measurable increase on the 23.3% who reported increased rates in the first half of 2017.
This reflects findings from a recent study by specialist contractor tax advisory service Qdos Contractor, which showed that 40% of contracting IT professionals were commanding more than £500 per day, while 8% were taking home over £700 a day.
Derek Kelly, CEO of the contractor accountancy firm SJD Accountancy (which conducted the latest research), speculated that, in some respects at least, ongoing uncertainties over Brexit appeared to be improving opportunities for contracting IT professionals.
“In some respects, lingering uncertainty is likely to favour contractors who are more suited to short-term projects that produce a quick return on investment than permanent hires.
“We are also starting to see large financial services businesses begin work on technology risk management projects related to Brexit, which is creating demand for contract roles.”
Reports are also circulating that significant numbers of UK-based IT professionals from the European Union are responding to the Brexit phenomenon by returning to the EU. The result, predictably, has been an exacerbation of IT skills shortages, which in turn created new opportunities for home-grown IT contractors.
Some sub-sectors of the IT industry, notably the rapidly developing Artificial Intelligence (AI) sector, require many more skilled recruits. In the last three years alone, demand for machine learning engineers and software developers – the experts who build AI software – has exploded by a staggering 485%.
Data from the jobs site Indeed indicates that currently, there are double the roles vacant in this sub-sector than there are candidates to fill them.