The primary reason a situation like this has been allowed to develop more or less unnoticed is due in no small part to the industry predilection towards blaming a 'skills shortage' for any fluctuation in the market
While there are shortages in some specific highly technical areas, the majority of the industry is well served with sufficient numbers of high quality personnel. Failure to secure these people for key roles is due mainly to the widespread adoption of nonsensical, multi-tier recruitment processes that prize speed of CV delivery over true assessment of candidate quality and agency margin over total recruitment costs and value.
The CVs may tick the requisite boxes but the candidates' skills are untested and cultural suitability unknown, yet agencies artificially inflate their rates in an attempt to achieve some return from paltry margins. Contractor turnover is high; candidates are unsatisfied; and UK business is wasting a fortune recruiting staff that cannot support key business initiatives.
For any organisation IT recruitment is a tough call. To get it right, complex skill-sets must combine with vertical market expertise, effective team working and cultural fit. It's little wonder that HR departments, even those with teams dedicated to IT recruitment, struggle to fully understand requirements.
With IT investment on the up - and contractor recruitment increasing - many HR teams have thrown in the towel, opting instead to sign up with third party organisations to provide an interface with the IT recruitment industry.
These organisations are working on tiny margins, providing tiny service. So, when a carefully crafted job description arrives on the desk of one of these companies it is touted out to three, four, perhaps five of the larger recruitment companies who then scramble to get their candidates' CVs on top of the pile.
In this unsophisticated, first come, first served model, the only qualification exercise carried out by agencies is a basic word search. There is no technical verification and certainly no candidate interview to consider personality traits and likely cultural fit.
The result is that organisations are precluded from even seeing the most relevant, appropriate and talented people due to poor processes. Agencies, in their bid to make some money from this volume-dependent model, are not motivated to negotiate contractor rates downwards.
In fact, it is in the agency's best interest to inflate the contractor's rate since their margin is a proportion of it. HR departments, following corporate governance to the letter and focused only on margin, are apparently oblivious to the real measure they should be controlling, the cost of each individual hired.
These organisations are regularly employing low quality candidates at several hundred pounds per day rather than candidates from a specialist recruiter that have been assessed, checked and interviewed to ascertain fit and are lower priced, because the specialist recruiter has a higher margin.
The only way employers will regain access the IT skills required to support key business initiatives is to reject current practices and take more direct control over their recruitment. Great IT skills are out there and they don't cost the earth. The only thing standing in between IT and the right contract staff is commoditised recruitment practices.