Finding technology workers with the right skills is a problem worldwide. The UK is no exception with its needs for tech-savvy workers showing  no signs of letting up, even amid Brexit. Recruitment firms in the UK are scrambling to find those who match client requirements.

CompTIA notes in a recent blog post that nine in 10 firms in the UK’s £151 billion IT industry have experienced the skills shortage first hand, and nearly half believe it will grow.

It’s especially difficult finding workers to place permanently and there’s large demand for workers with skills in cybersecurity, machine learning and data, says Ahsan Iqbal, director – technology, at UK-based recruitment firm Robert Walters.

“The technology economy is growing three times faster than the main economy,” Iqbal says. Startups and technology firms as well as companies in traditional industries are also massively investing in technology and hiring staff in the segment.

And a report by the Institution of Engineering and Technology found that 61% of engineering and technology employers in the UK reported the skills shortage as a barrier to achieving business objectives over the next three years.

The most recent “Professional Recruitment Trends” report by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies, APSCo, found that demand for technology roles — both temporary and permanent — rose in October. Permanent vacancies were up 5.0% year over year while temp vacancies rose 5.4%.

Ann Swain, founder and global CEO of APSCo, says the skills shortage will always be a feature of the technology given its quick change and rapid development.

“It’s the nature of that market,” Swain says.

In addition, an index in APSCo’s report measuring permanent technology placements rose 45.3% year over year, although its index measuring temporary technology placements fell 24.2% year over year.

Swain says the lower temp number was a bit of a surprise as companies tend to bring in temporary workers during times of uncertainty rather than permanent hires. Looking ahead to forthcoming November numbers, though, the decline in temp does not appear as big.

It’s also possible that Brexit, one of the issues causing uncertainty, has gone on long enough that firms have grown accustomed to the chaos, she says. In addition, Brexit may not impact technology recruiting as much as it might in other industries.

“From a Brexit point of view, people are definitely worried whether they will be able to bring in high caliber individuals as easily as in the past,” Swain says. However, many technology workers come from outside Europe, and Brexit will have less of an impact on their recruitment.

A Lot of Opportunity

There’s just a lot more opportunity in technology than there are people available, says James Milligan, director of Hays IT and digital technology.

People with experience in front-end development, data analytics and cyber security are particularly in demand, Milligan says.

David Farmer, COO at Harnham, based in Wimbledon, England, a firm that specializes in data and analytics recruiting, says most-sought technical specialties he sees include skills in Python and the R programming language. But the real demand is for people that have the technical skills as well as understanding of business and the ability to present what they are doing to a business audience.

“In the past, there were roles where someone sat in a dark room writing code,” Farmer says. “That isn’t what people want anymore.” Instead, they want someone with an ability to roll out the strategy from the work they’re doing and to understand the business impact.

A report by Hays released in November found that technology roles secured the top salary rises in the previous 12 months. The highest increases went to “senior front-end developer (Javascript/HTML/CSS)”, up 6.2%, and data architect, also up 6.2%.

Salaries must be competitive — that’s a first concern when it comes to recruiting.

“If the salaries aren’t competitive enough or don’t meet candidate expectations, that’s the first thing that needs to be considered,” says Hays’ Milligan.

However, UK tech workers are also interested in other things such as work-life balance and flexible working arrangements, such as working from home. Candidates can also be interested in working in environments with the latest technology or working in an organization they feel has a purpose.

“For example, working in med-tech, may be more effective than working on a product or service that is purely functional,” he says.

Other ways of building tech talent being looked at by hiring firms include considering people returning to the workforce and offering training. Some construction and engineering firms are taking those with experience in their industries and training them in software. In addition, some companies are looking into coders who are self-taught. Talent pools outside the country are also being looked at, and the technology workforce in some cities is as much as 50% non-UK.

“In most of these markets, there’s just so much demand,” Milligan says. “You’re looking at creative ways of trying to fill the deficit.”

But Milligan says he doesn’t see Brexit as the biggest risk when bringing in talent. “I think it’s more of a UK brand risk because of Brexit rather than an actual risk in terms of talent because I think there will be a mechanism for talent to come in.”

The skills shortage is a global problem. In the UK, the skills shortage is everywhere across the country, he says. While some locations in the UK may have advantages over others in terms of cost of living, transportation, infrastructure or lifestyle, the skills shortage exists everywhere.

“If you’re in London you have a large talent pool, but you also have more competition,” he says. And while places on the south coast can be very attractive to move to, they have smaller talent pools and fewer people looking for talent.

“With new initiatives and investment to encourage young people into STEM subjects across the UK, there are now more people entering the industry that have the technology skills required for the future,” Milligan says “However, because of the rate at which these jobs are expected to grow, it is likely that the demand for talent to fill these jobs will outpace the number of people available to fill them.”

Finding and Keeping

Harnham’s Farmer says he has seen examples of firms offering share schemes with a longer vesting period with the aim of attracting new technology hires and keeping them on for longer. Companies are also hiring good people when they find them before they are actually needed just to ensure the right talent is in place when the need does arise.

“It’s not necessarily what people are doing to attract talent, but it’s what they are doing to keep people in roles,” Farmer says. It’s especially important given the relatively high turnover rate of those with in-demand skills.

Salary is, of course, a main driver of keeping people, he says. However, in addition, offering workers the chance to work with the latest technologies and tools, staying on the cutting edge, also entices technology professionals to remain in place.

Iqbal of Robert Walters says he sees companies using a variety of tactics to attract technology talent. Some examples are holding hackathons with prizes, Meetups and tech events.

Still, the skills shortage will likely continue for the future, Iqbal says. Demand for tech workers will continue as companies keep investing in technology, more startups get rolling and millennials are more focused on technology.

“It’s an exciting sector to be in.”