By George Barnes, Co-founder and Director of Hamilton Barnes, the leading provider of talent solutions to the network engineering sector.
- The tech sector – and cybersecurity in particular – won’t be affected, quite the opposite; clients are hiring faster and in greater volumes than ever before.
- There are 30,000+ job vacancies in cybersecurity in the current market but not enough talent to fill the positions.
- This is driving up salaries and, in some cases, forcing businesses to hire graduates with no experience.
- ONS figures show that ‘Professional and scientific industry’ is the only one where pay continues to match rising prices.
Economists say UK GDP is set to shrink in 2023, confirming what we’ve been fearing for some time – that we’re in a recession. Well, maybe that’s true in the ‘real’ world, but I firmly believe that the expected economic downturn will pass the tech industry by and there are a number of reasons for that line of thinking.
A recession will typically see companies make redundancies to keep themselves afloat and pull back on their spending across specific business areas. Marketing is frequently the first to go and, reducing investment in technology and infrastructure has historically been a close second.
But in the aftermath of COVID-19, investment in tech – particularly in cybersecurity – is at an all-time high. You see, while the pandemic brought with it a host of problems for countless businesses around the world, affecting staffing, supply chains, cash flow and much more, it highlighted the need for more robust cybersecurity practices. Forced changes in perimeter – namely people working from home and using personal devices – and employees accessing sensitive data through unsafe Wi-Fi networks have weakened businesses defences, leading to increased security threats.
Cybersecurity is therefore at an all-time high. Attacks on businesses increased by almost 70% last year, with two in five of those targeted at SMEs, because security policies weren’t agile enough to prevent or mitigate against malware, phishing, ransomware, denial of service attacks, and SQL injections, amongst other threats. Indeed, prior to the pandemic, cybersecurity was often an afterthought for many businesses – so much so that SMEs would struggle to get cybersecurity funding until they were the victim of an attack. Only then would it become a priority.
But a recent report by Morgan Stanley showed that security software is the area in which CIOs are least likely to cut spending, should the economy worsen. The average cost of an attack to businesses has also risen into the tens of thousands of pounds, and investments are therefore ramping up in response to soaring levels of cybercrime. The traditional cybersecurity approach of waiting until the horse has bolted no longer cuts the mustard and this is great news for the sector, which is booming like never before, even if this is fuelled by necessity.
This changing landscape has prompted a resurgence in recruitment in the sector, with business asking how they can afford NOT to invest in cybersecurity. The result is a ‘candidate-driven’ market, with those with the necessary expertise in hot demand. So much so that there are 30,000+ cybersecurity vacancies open in the current market and salaries are being driven up as companies are forced to throw money at their recruitment requirements to compete and attract the best talent. Hamilton Barnes is seeing cyber positions that used to pay £80k per annum being advertised at over £110k and organisations that don’t have that kind of capital are being forced to look at younger candidates. Graduates are being offered salaries of £50k+ when their only cyber experience is studying it in a textbook.
Organisations have also had to accommodate employee demands for more flexible ways of working and 75% of our clients are now allowing flexible work arrangements. This is a major pull for a lot of candidates, so much so that we generally fill positions with these companies within a week or ten days. However, for the 25% of clients that are insisting that staff attend the office, the timeframe is considerably longer; upwards of two months. Luckily we have the expertise and network to find the right talent for these roles, but this demand will make it increasingly challenging to fill these positions. Even graduates, who could benefit from the interaction that comes from an office environment early in their careers, are opting to work from home.
So a recession? Far from it. As organisations aim to outrun their competitors, their need to hire cybersecurity specialists – and a range of other tech talent, such as senior network engineers and network security architects; just some of the key roles Hamilton Barnes is recruiting for – is seeing a surge of investment into the sector. This is in turn fuelled by greater customer demand for secure, data-driven insights.
Now is the time, therefore, to speculate to accumulate. Businesses simply can’t become a market leader without spending money and investing in top-quality tech talent. Any business that is overly cautious is going to fall behind. It remains to be seen whether there is the talent to fill the void and the awareness in the education sector to continually fuel the pipeline. But that’s probably a different article entirely.