Is There A Developer Shortage In The UK?

By Luke Angelo

Introduction

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on how businesses think and operate. Having a strong digital foundation has become key for survival during these times. Many non-essential retailers had their stores completely closed by restrictions, giving them no choice but to sell products online.

With continuing uncertainty, UK businesses are keen to ‘safeguard’ themselves against future lockdowns. This has lead to a huge increase in demand for Software and Web Developers. Some businesses have faced difficulty in their recruitment drive, which leads to the question – is there a developer shortage in the UK?

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What Is A Developer?

A developer is someone who builds software or applications, using coding languages to achieve desired functionality. People who develop Web Applications tend to be given the term “Web Developer” as opposed to Software Developer. There is a key distinction between a developer and a designer – a designer focuses on visual appeal and content creation. Whereas a developer focuses more explicitly on functionality and usability, often working with database-driven applications.

How Big Is The Demand For Developers?

As of December 14th 2021, there are a staggering 30,000 adverts on Indeed for developers. There are 8,873 adverts specifically looking for Web Developers. Such high figures are indicative of a skills shortage within the industry, which could lead to catastrophe for some firms.

Why Are There So Many Vacancies?

There is no simple explanation for the shortage of developers, there have been a range of contributing factors.

Brexit

Many EU Nationals work within development roles across the UK. Following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU in 2020, it has become more difficult for candidates to move to the UK and fulfil vacancies. There is a new Points-Based-System, and there is a charge to a company to hire a candidate by the system (approx. £1,500). The government have recognised the shortage in the tech industry, and Tech Roles meet the requirements of the new system. This means Software Developers can still move to the UK if there are sponsored by a suitable company [1].

Fierce Competition For Candidates

As the market becomes more saturated with potential employers, candidates are able to demand a higher salary. This means smaller firms may struggle to meet the salary expectations of more experienced developers. Larger software companies are in a better position to monopolise the recruitment of developers, and turn the head of candidates with salaries and job perks.

Remote Working

The salaries on offer have increase markedly, but money isn’t the only draw for the modern developer. With the advent of remote working, a more flexible work environment is preferable for many candidates.

According to research by RADA Business [2], 45% of respondents were either very or extremely interested in making remote working a permanent arrangement after the pandemic. More than three in five of 16-24 year olds polled said they wished to continue home working full time or a “hybrid” arrangement.

Remote working can lead to great productivity, a better work-life balance and less expenditure on commuting. Cutting down on commuting also reduces an individual’s carbon footprint, which is important as people become more eco-conscious. If a firm fails to offer remote working, it risks being left behind in the recruitment market.

How Many Developers Are There In The UK?

According to research by Statista [3], there were approximately 408,000 Programmers and Software Developer’s employed across the United Kingdom in 2020. This means approximately 0.6% of the population would classify themselves as a developer. These employees are spread across a plethora of industries, including Web, Gaming and IT Services.

How Can We Solve The Shortage?

Lower The Requirements For Entry

Many firms are only looking for candidates with many years of experience, but many experience developers are already in employment. Firms can adapt by reducing the amount of experience required, and looking for more Junior Developers as opposed to senior roles. This lowers salary requirements, but does lead to an increased need for training. Training the right candidate can be a wise investment in the long-term.

Make The Industry More Attractive

To attract more candidates, companies should create opportunities for people with non-computing backgrounds who are looking to re-train. Organizations should advertise the benefits of being in the tech industry, and draw in candidates from other sectors.

By focusing on education and development, a company can broaden its pool of candidates. There are fewer ‘ready-made’ developers with experience, but anyone can learn to code with the right guidance.

Working as a developer can lead to fantastic salary opportunities and better job security. Businesses and universities should highlight this, and encourage more young people to embark on a career as a developer.

Conclusion

Although there is a shortage of developers in the UK, it is not a major crisis. Other industries have been hit a lot harder by the pandemic, for example – the Road Haulage Association estimates there is a shortage of more than 100,000 HGV drivers in the UK [4].

There is an increased interest in learning to code. A European Wide study by Red Hat found that 1 in 20 adults took up coding or some form of development training in 2020 [5]. This is great news, and people have realising upskilling can improve their career prospects.

With more time spent at home, it’s easier than ever for someone to learn to code. Free resources and courses exist all across the web, and so many open-source languages exist. The development industry should continue to thrive, and the developer shortage may disappear in the near future.

References

[1] The Big Q: Can EU software engineers work in the UK after Brexit? – https://www.client-server.com/blog/2020/11/the-big-q-can-eu-software-engineers-work-in-the-uk-after-brexit

[2] Total numbers of programmers and software development professionals in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2011 to 2020 – https://www.statista.com/statistics/318818/numbers-of-programmers-and-software-development-professionals-in-the-uk/

[3] Nearly half of UK professionals want to continue remote working, study reveals – https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/news/articles/nearly-half-UK-professionals-continue-remote-working-study-reveals#gref

[4] How serious is the shortage of lorry drivers? –https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/57810729

[5] Now everyone wants to be a software developer, as interest in coding rockets – https://www.techrepublic.com/article/now-everyone-wants-to-be-a-software-developer-as-interest-in-coding-rockets/

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