Tech Firms Blaze Trail With Huge Jobs Drive

Britain’s technology industry is helping to cushion the jobs market from the worst effects of the pandemic, with vacancies in the sector rising by more than a third during the summer.

The number of advertised vacancies in the digital sector has climbed 36 per cent since early June, according to data collected by Tech Nation, the government-backed lobby group.

During the first quarter, firms placed more than 150,000 job advertisements a week but the figure plummeted when the economy was placed in a deep freeze in March. Vacant positions have since recovered to an average of 90,000 per week as companies have increased investment in software and computer systems.

After healthcare, the digital sector is posting the highest number of vacancies, according to the report. In nine British cities, tech companies account for a fifth of all employment, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Bristol and Reading. In Belfast and Cambridge, the sector employs 26 per cent of the workforce.

The Tech Nation study suggests that the recovery from the Covid-19 economic shock is likely to be uneven. Sectors such as travel, tourism and retail are predicted to cut their workforces drastically, while others will be able to prosper from the deep-seated changes to consumer behaviour wrought by the pandemic.

Thanks to the furlough scheme, the headline unemployment rate has held steady at 3.9 per cent since the lockdown. However, the Bank of England expects the rate to double to 7.5 per cent by the end of the year as the Treasury withdraws the support.

Rolls-Royce, Costa Coffee, Pret A Manger, British Airways and BP are among the large employers to have announced redundancy programmes. Individual sectors have begun pleading for help, including the hospitality, automotive and aerospace trade bodies.

By contrast, many digital companies are hiring staff to handle a surge of orders from customers preparing to have a much larger proportion of staff working from home in future.

“Since lockdown, companies have come to realise that they need industrial-grade technology to run their businesses and tech companies are hiring people to service these new customers, expand and build new products,” said Haakon Overli, co-founder of the venture fund Dawn Capital, which invests in enterprise software start-ups. “We’re seeing it right across our portfolio.”

Over the past two years, the number of people employed in tech companies has risen 40 per cent to 2.9 million people, or 9 per cent of the UK’s total workforce. More than one million of these positions are non-technical areas such as finance and marketing. Last year the number of jobs advertised in the digital sector was seven times that in the legal industry and eight times the number for manufacturing, according to Tech Nation.

The report, compiled for London Tech Week, said the trend for remote working would offer opportunities for people outside large cities to land “high-paid, quality roles”.

Venture funding is expected to fall this year because of the downturn in the economy. Funds have ploughed £7.6 billion into UK-based start-ups since January, compared with last year’s record £11.4 billion total investment. However, Britain remains ahead of its European rivals. In Germany, digital companies have attracted £3.6 billion in new investment this year, while their French counterparts raised £2.8 billion, Tech Nation said.

Originally posted by Simon Duke.

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