It is estimated that 4million workers in the UK are employed on a temporary basis. 1.56 million of these are what we define as professional contractors. In short this is workers at a professional level that choose a career in temporary / contract work. The IT profession arguably employs the largest number by scale and proportion of professional contractors.

The IT contract market is already significant but 2019 could be a defining year to shape the landscape of how workers are employed in the industry. Things that could influence are:

Brexit

It’s not going away and it feels like it’s not getting resolved. Continued uncertainty could have positive and negative effects. On one hand encouraging permanent members of staff to change jobs is always harder in uncertain times creating the need for temporary workers to fill the gap. EU citizens may choose too leave and be hard to replace. EU citizens choose not to come, thus increasing skill shortages. But on the negative side for contractors they are very disposable if companies choose to make cuts. Continued uncertainty or a poor deal could lead to recession meaning projects outside of business as usual are removed in which to cut costs and demand for contractor skills reduce. 

IR35

This piece of legislation has already been rolled out into the public sector and in short potentially heavily restricts a contractors earning capacity. Whilst the budget this year announced a delay in any rollout to the private sector the legislation is still coming. Short term contractors could consider alternative arrangements such as changing the way they work / availability. Long term and if announced it will be rolled out in next years budget organisations may start to re-consider how they employ contractors. At first glance IR35 could slow contractor demand and availability without addressing skill shortages. 

Digital Transformation

Many industries are at the centre of digital transformation. Whether it is public authorities introducing digital services to suit the demographic of the population, or retail companies adapting to consumer behaviour lots of companies are introducing new services driven by technology. The trend is likely to continue in 2019 and expand to new sectors that lack the existing knowledge and expertise to deliver on transformation. Given the project based nature of this it should have a positive effect on contractor demand for the contractor at least. 

Emerging Technology

AI, cyber security and big data are all behind new technologies that require skills to implement and maintain. For companies to stay with the market in many circumstances it is essential to introduce emerging technology into the business. This requires new skills, ones which often are not present in the organisation. Implementation and maintenance are two very different requirements and contractors are likely to maintain a key presence in influencing both elements as companies look to achieve best practice. 

Skill shortages

The simple fact is development of new technology is faster than development of the appropriate skills to manage and implement technology. If companies cannot hire on a permanent basis for a job thats needs doing they will focus attention an alternative routes which include hiring a contractor. As mentioned previously Brexit could also impact this as we lose EU citizens and struggle to import skills. 

Whilst it is a good time to be an IT contractor there are things to consider that could influence your long term thinking. For employers less contractors does not necessarily solve an issue. In fact quite the opposite as specialist skills become harder to source. 

Martin and Conley is a specialist in recruiting IT professionals of a contract nature across a range of industries. Should you be in search of new opportunities or personnel please get in touch at info@martinandconley.com