Contract workers are an essential part of the IT and technology industries. With so much rapid innovation, and the high number of business-critical IT-led but shorter-term projects organisations want more flexible and reactive access to IT skills. One major recruiter spoke out during this party conference season encouraging political parties to make it easier for businesses to tap this important skilled resource.
But while big business often talk about their concerns, we hear less from the contractors themselves. The Pulse Umbrella Group recently undertook a survey of contract staff to identify their views on their careers as well as the issues they are most concerned about.
It found that they are generally a happy bunch: 85 per cent enjoy their way of working so much they would recommend it to a friend, and a third feel it advances their career more quickly. The best thing about contracting is the money, they say.
And when looking at the survey respondents working specifically in IT, this trend is even more pronounced: the number of IT contractors recommending this way of working to others rises to an impressive 91 per cent. However, IT contracting staff also flagged up some worries.
In such a fast-moving sector it can be challenging to stay ahead of the curve and keeping their skills up to date is of concern to this group. Around a quarter say keeping their learning and development up to scratch is the thing they find most difficult about contracting.
And half say the struggle to keep their skills up to date would be the reason they would not recommend this career to a friend. The other major bugbear for contractors is finding another contract when one has come to an end.
When it comes to keeping skills up to date, the fact that they regularly change jobs does give them an advantage in that they have their finger on the pulse of what the most in demand skills are. Most contractors enjoy learning new things, which puts them at an advantage over ‘permies’ who may be more interested in doing the same things day in day out. Contractors need to make the most of this aspect when selling themselves for new roles.
Once a contract comes to an end contractors use a variety of ways to find a new role. While recruiters are a popular resource and there are a number of IT-specific job sites, personal networks are also important to contractors and these tend to grow larger the longer someone has been contracting.
And employers need to be aware that contractors talk! If contractors have been given a mid-contract ‘take it or leave it’ wage reduction at a particular company, that company may find it harder to recruit quality contractors in the future as they do not appreciate this kind of behaviour.
The recent economic upheavals saw a huge increase in the number of people becoming full time contractors, whether by choice or necessity. Even though the job market appears to be stabilising now, many have found that contracting gives them freedom in their lives that a permanent role did not. To continue to get the most out of this talented part of the labour market it’s important for business to continue to communicate the importance of this sector of the economy, as well as to remunerate them appropriately.