The tech sector bounced back from the pandemic bigger and better than before with a strong demand for skilled staff, according to figures released by the professional body for information technology. BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, analysed figures from various sources, including the Office for National Statistics and job sites.

Like many industries, the tech sector was hit by the economic downturn that followed the lockdown in spring 2019. The demand for IT specialists reached a low by the second quarter of 2020, then began to recover, according to BCS’ new State of the Nation report on digital skills in the labour market.

Apprenticeships surge

According to the latest figures from the Department for Education, starts on digital apprenticeship routes in the first two quarters of the 2021/22 academic year were over 30% higher than the equivalent period of 2020/21. Within this, advanced digital apprenticeships have seen over a 70% increase, while higher digital apprenticeships have had over a 10% increase.

The Minister for Skills Alex Burghart said: “More than ever, apprenticeships are playing a vital role in helping leading industries, such as digital and tech, get the skilled workforce they need to continue delivering innovation to the highest level.

“Quality apprenticeships in exciting industries will give more people across the country the chance to upskill, learn on the job and get on the path to a fantastic and fulfilling career.”

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Annette Allmark, BCS Head of Apprenticeships, said: “The speed of digital adoption and innovation has, unsurprisingly, put more emphasis on the need for digital skills, not only for those working directly in an IT and digital role but across the workforce as a whole. The pandemic has been a catalyst for change, and that change is here right now.”

The official launch was held of the BCS Digital Skills Network mid May. The Network aims to bring together experts from across industry, government, charities, and training providers to discuss strategies to boost the tech talent pipeline.

Skilled staff needed

By late 2021 the need for tech staff was higher than pre-pandemic. On average, there were 64,000 job vacancies in the information and communications sector by the third quarter of 2021 - an increase of 36% on the previous quarter and 191% on the equivalent period in 2020.

The biggest demand was for highly skilled staff, such as developers, who represented 23% of all posted vacancies, followed by analysts, who came in second at 11%. According to statistics from the Indeed job site, there was also a rise in demand for development and IT operations/helpdesk staff.

Further education concerns

The importance of providing a properly resourced and funded further education system to meet the lifelong learning needs of the workforce is a concern said Zoe Spilberg, BCS Head of Education.

She said: “We’re seeing recruitment and retention of staff in some areas in the UK being more of a challenge for providers than recruitment and retention of learners. There’s a lot of work to be done to ensure we reach a representative and diverse talent pool of prospective trainers and teachers to plug these vital gaps.”