The UK is currently in the midst of a pronounced skills shortage. There is a lack of candidates on the market with the abilities businesses are looking for and one of the most affected industries is IT.
According to new research from IT skills and training body CompTIA, just under half of UK business are experiencing an 'extensive' shortage of talent in this area. Some 44 per cent of businesses revealed they are worried their workers' productivity is hampered by this lack of IT skills, while 30 per cent claimed it is having a direct impact on their customer service.
Other implications of the skills shortage include slower speed-to-market for new products (27 per cent) and reduced ability to innovate (26 per cent).
Estelle Johannes, CompTIA UK director for member communities, told HR Magazine: "The impact of the skills gap threatens the livelihood of businesses across the country, from information security to customer service, and more needs to be done to tackle this growing problem. But building and managing talent requires a concerted effort, resources and time. There is rarely a quick fix to addressing skills gaps."
To try and overcome the skills shortage, 28 per cent of IT professionals said their organisation plans to hire more IT staff this year, which is double the figure reported when the same question was asked in 2014.
What does it mean for me?
So, what does this all mean for contractors? The good news is that if you have the sorts of IT skills businesses are looking for, you will find your services very much in demand. This is something you can use to your advantage, allowing you to negotiate a higher rate of pay than would normally be available.
If IT skills aren't your strong point, now may be a good time to invest in training and earn some relevant qualifications. This could prove more than worthwhile, as the skills shortage is unlikely to be solved anytime soon and being able to boost your CV with an IT qualification could help to improve your chances of winning that next contract.
Perhaps the one area where businesses are most keen to invest in people with IT skills is cyber security. With each passing year, the threat posed by hackers and cyber criminals intensifies and billions of pounds is now lost to online attacks.
To prevent falling victim to a cyber breach, businesses are increasingly investing in security. Indeed, the CompTIA study found 58 per cent of companies see spending in this area as a top IT priority for the next 12 months.
This focus on preventing crime means contractors with skills in this area are now able to command lucrative pay rates. Back in 2013, Eugene Kaspersky, founder of Kaspersky Lab, went as far as to suggest cyber security professionals could become the IT world's equivalent of professional footballers.
"There aren't enough of them. These experts are going to become the new footballers. Governments have to recognise this as a big problem," he told the Guardian.
While this hasn't quite come to pass - cyber security professionals are not earning anywhere near as much as Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi - people with skills in this area are able to command pay rates that other IT professionals cannot.
This just goes to show that while the skills shortage is a problem for businesses, it can serve as an opportunity for contractors - provided they have the abilities to take advantage.