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Battle for IT talent goes national

Tech Cities Job Watch, a quarterly analysis of IT job vacancies across the country, is proof of the high levels of IT recruitment activity taking place across Britain. By Geoff Smith, Managing Director, Experis.

What might come as a surprise is that one in four technology jobs advertised in the last quarter of 2014 were for positions based outside of the capital, many of these at highly competitive salaries or contract day rates. As organisations grow their IT teams to meet evolving consumer and operational demands, what can HR teams do to ensure their talent recruitment and retention strategies are fit for purpose, as rising ‘Tech Cities’ battle it out?

The first lesson is that no organisation should limit the scope of its recruitment to London any more. Despite being the largest cluster of tech professionals, as well as a choice location for headquarters requiring large IT teams (banks, insurers, and the government, to name but a few), other UK cities are working hard to develop reputations as hubs for specific IT disciplines. Cambridge is a leading centre of bioscience and hardware development, Bristol is home to multiple robotics firms, Manchester to media tech, Edinburgh for artificial intelligence, and Newcastle for gaming. Depending on the skills needed, organisations should look to advertise positions in Tech Cities where major sector players are hiring, and where rare talent may be gathering.

So what to do when you’ve found the perfect candidate, but they’re based halfway across the country? Salary is an obvious incentive for many to move. Whilst London roles offer the highest average pay, many other cities are fighting back with attractive offers of their own. The second highest salaries are being offered in Cambridge, followed by Birmingham, Glasgow, Bristol, Edinburgh, Manchester, Brighton, Sheffield and Newcastle respectively. 

However, more experienced IT professionals who have cultivated in-demand skillsets over time may be less inclined to relocate. Where experienced IT experts with rare skills are required, HR directors should strongly consider alternative and remote working schemes, or even to set up remote working centres for specific projects and IT challenges.

Some HR teams should also ask themselves if full time staffing is the appropriate solution for the business’s needs. Hiring IT professionals for short-term projects, installations or training on contract day rates may be more appropriate. Some Tech Cities, such as Bristol, Birmingham and Cambridge, offer contract day rates exceeding those of the capital, seeking to attract Londoners with the necessary skills for surgical projects. This can buy time while you track down that perfect candidate.

The TCJW report, which we plan to repeat on a quarterly basis, shows that the government’s ambition to extend the success of the London ‘Tech City’ model across the country seems to be working. However, given the rapacious demand for technological and digital upgrades across all types of business, it’s unlikely that the amount of skilled IT talent will outpace demand any time soon. A candidate-driven market where individuals are in the driver’s seat will remain the norm. HR teams that stay abreast of Tech City trends will be best placed to locate, attract and retain the IT expertise they need to meet their organisation’s goals.

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