The world is changing at an unprecedented rate and the future of work is looking more and more unstable. Workforce automation and the rise of machine learning is estimated to put 10 million jobs in the UK at risk, resulting in increasing pressure for individuals to shift their skillsets to meet new market demands. In the same breath, new skills are erupting on the scene and for many this is an exciting opportunity to pivot into a new, rapidly growing industry. This transition will mark an important turning point in the UK’s work history, as outdated skills (repetitive, predictable, manual and customer service related roles being the most likely to take a hike) are replaced with skills that require perception and manipulation, creative intelligence and or/social intelligence.
There has never been a better time to join the tech industry and its rapid advancement toward the so-called fourth industrial revolution. In the UK, the digital economy is growing at twice the rate of the wider UK economy and contributes almost £97bn to the UK economy every year – an increase of 30 per cent over a five year period. We’re the European leader in tech, attracting £28bn in technology investment since 2011, including £6.8bn in 2016 – that’s 50 per cent higher than any other European country. London is the Fintech capital of the world and the UK is considered a major pioneer in Artificial Intelligence with five of the world’s biggest tech companies buying-up UK-based AI organisations. The UK is a hot spot for start-ups, scale-ups and corporate giants alike, even boasting its own ‘Silicon Roundabout’ tech hub. And if all that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite for a career change, consider this: there are now 1.64 million digital tech jobs in the UK and this is growing 2x faster than any other sector, pockets of tech talent are springing up all over the UK and the average salary in the digital industry is 44 per cent higher than the national average. If that hasn’t got you hungry for change, nothing will.
According to LinkedIn, the most up-and-coming and in-demand skillsets in the UK are:
- Statistical analysis and data mining;
- Middleware and integration software;
- HR benefits and compensation;
- Web architecture and development framework;
- Mobile development;
- SEO/SEM marketing;
- Network and information security;
- Data presentation; and
- Data engineering and data warehousing.
By contrast, a study by Bentley University recently revealed the technical skills that had felt a surge in demand were:
- Big Data (Information Technology): 3,977%
- Node.js (Design): 2,493%
- Tableau (Research and Analysis): 1,581%
- NoSQL (Information Technology): 1,002%
- Apache Hadoop (Information Technology): 704%
- HTML5 (Information Technology): 612%
- Python (Research and Analysis): 456%
- Oracle (Sales): 382%
- JSON (Information Technology): 318%
- Salesforce CRM (Sales): 292%
Other areas that we predict will be hot for development in the coming years will be roles within robotics, cybersecurity analysis, virtual and augmented reality design, machine learning, cloud architecture, urban innovation (plantech) and the renewable energy industry, fintech and blockchain, data science and big data and business transformation/agile.
Wait. Hold on a minute. We know what you’re thinking. It’s all well and good that the tech industry is booming just as other skillsets are dying out, but how are you supposed to break into the market without any tech skills? Surely you’ll be laughed out of the door? And what about the fact that technology is developing at such a pace that even those in the industry are struggling to keep up? According to statistics, nearly 50 per cent of subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four year technical degree is outdated by the time students graduate – how are you supposed to get hold of the ‘next big thing’ for skillsets if the institutions can’t?
Well, of course you need the technical skillsets. You can’t walk into the industry without the knowledge, however there’s good news for those looking to move: just as the world is turning towards different types of work, it’s also turning towards different types of workers. The world is becoming unmistakably hybrid – made up of cells of remote and cross-border workers, the gig economy and freelancing, agile and team centric ways of working and making diversity an imperative. And as Gen Z and millennials enter the workplace, their appetite for learning and serial job hopping tendencies (42% are likely to leave an organisation if they feel they are not learning fast enough) is making continuous learning a necessary part of any organisation’s growth strategy. What this means is that we’re becoming a hybridised workforce – workers made up of complex and unique skillsets and experiences that all add something a little different to a business.
Crucially, employers are embracing this diversity. Employers are now looking for workers that can bridge the gap between technical proficiency and soft skills – such as communication and collaboration. In the new workforce, perception, creativity and social intelligence are just as – if not more – important than acquiring those ‘hard, technical skills’, in part because hard skills are changing so quickly, but also because of such severe talent shortages in tech. Resilience and innovation has to rank highly in a world where it is estimated that by 2020 more than a third of desired core skill sets will consists of skills not yet considered crucial to the role today. As demand in new markets outstrips supply, employers will need to remain open-minded and flexible to mixed profiles as opposed to looking for pure techies.
So how do you make the transition?
It’s important to keep up-to-date with what’s going on in the market and where your experience fits in so you can sharpen your skills accordingly. Research your chosen technology, sign up to industry newsletters, consume blogs, vlogs and podcasts and follow key figures on social media. Attend meet-ups and networking events or join relevant talent communities in order to get an insight into where the market is going, and where you can fit in. Lastly, if you’d like to, give us a call. We have a pretty strong hold on the tech market and we’re always happy to help give advice or direction on your career.
The good news is that continuous learning has become the norm both internally for organisations as they update processes, and externally with tools such as YouTube, Makers Academy, Coursera, Udacity, Udemy, Codecademy, and edX ensuring that new skills are only ever a mouse click away. If you’re into more traditional, face-to-face learning, you’ll be pleased to hear that the government is investing heavily in education, meaning more internships, apprenticeships, university placements, crash courses and night classes.
Stay active in the industry by acquiring real-life experience in voluntary or part-time placements. The gig economy also provides the opportunity to work freelance during spare hours – whether that’s an extra half an hour a night or put aside for a rainy day.
Improve soft skills
Crucially, tech skills are no longer the only ‘must have’ on the agenda, especially for those just starting out. As the tech industry begins to permeate every aspect of our lives – from online banking to retail to health and fitness – the separation between roles will begin to dissolve and cross-functionality will become mandatory. As a result, don’t just focus on getting up to date on the latest programming language or cybersecurity hack, but also work on being able to demonstrate agility, perception, creativity, collaboration and communication. The future workforce is as much about breadth as it is about depth.
So, should you be pivoting your skills to the tech sector? Arguably, yes. It’s a high demand, highly lucrative and growing economy. Importantly, it looks open to transferable skillsets as it is, by its very nature, transformative and disruptive. And more than ever before, ‘soft skills’ are becoming essential criteria for those that want to succeed in tech, as the industry searches not just for those that have technical capability but also those that can think outside of the box to drive the market harder, faster and stronger. The industry is wide open for fresh talent and individuals that can bring new thoughts to the table, and with an abundance of ways to upskills and improve your skillset, quite frankly, why wouldn’t you? And while you debate that question, why don’t you check out the c. 210 vacancies we have on our website at any given time.