Whilst some have been slammed, others have experienced a boom thanks to changing behaviour or as a result of their part in the fight against the virus. IT & Internet is one of those boom industries, with the WaveTrackR Recruitment Trends: Lockdown Report revealing that it posted the greatest number of jobs and received the second highest levels of applications of all industries in 2020. As the world was forced to retreat home, everything moved online and digital demand exploded, accelerating a pre-pandemic trend. IT & Internet was central to us all carrying on, both professional and personally, in the midst of a raft of restrictions.
As the first lockdown hit and businesses shifted to remote operation, demand for IT & Internet services and products skyrocketed. Openreach, which runs much of the UK’s broadband network, has revealed that UK internet use more than doubled in 2020 as we stayed at home, communicating with friends and family we weren’t permitted to see via video call, streaming TV, and gaming, homeschooling and working online. Networks were hugely stretched. Ensuring there is capacity for the huge amounts of extra usage has been a constant battle and upgrading broadband networks was ongoing throughout 2020. Openreach announced more than 5,000 new engineering roles to support this, a reflection of the huge numbers of new jobs created in response to demand in the sector.
There was concern that Covid-19 might bring the internet to its knees but in fact the reverse has happened and it is driving huge and rapid expansion. Internet giants like Netflix and Zoom rushed out upgrades and expanded their infrastructure. Netflix has been installing extra servers in regional hubs in order to increase streaming speed and Zoom has partnered with broadband providers in highly trafficked areas to set up dedicated connections. With each one of these upgrades, human workers are needed to install and replace cables, fix servers and maintain continuous service.
Jobs in IT & Internet have been relatively high for some time but rapid developments in technology had led to years of skills shortages in the sector. Applications soared in 2020 though, peaking in November after the original date for the end of the furlough scheme. With a future that is likely only to see growth, IT & Internet is an attractive industry for those made redundant in vulnerable sectors looking to pivot and retrain. During a crisis, a safe and steady job is more attractive than ever - the Education sector experienced an uptick in applications for similar reasons.
Will IT & Internet’s boom be reversed when the pandemic ends? While we may not rely quite so heavily on Zoom when restrictions ease, the world has unquestionably irrevocably changed. Business travel is likely to remain far reduced, online shopping will continue, and remote working is here to stay in various capacities. The digitisation of the economy was well under way before the pandemic but Covid has vastly accelerated it. Companies that hadn’t embraced digital transformation found themselves woefully unprepared to manage a remote workforce or market to customers that could only shop online. No business wants that to happen again in the event of a future pandemic or other crisis and so many are now digitally future-proofed. The upside of the pandemic for the industry is that it has shone a light on how crucial the IT department is to the daily functioning of businesses.
As the world has gone digital, jobs in IT & Internet will continue to flourish, particularly in areas such as cloud, data science and AI that have historically struggled with talent gaps. What we need to see now is a greater uptake of school leavers training in key IT skills to ensure there is enough talent in the pipeline to meet demand.