iOS growth creating skills shortage

Man holding coffee cup applying for a job on the internet using a laptop
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The adoption among consumers of iOS and other Android devices has surpassed that of any consumer technology in history.

Compared to recent technologies, the rise in demand for smart devices is 10 times faster than the growth of PCs in the 1980s and, perhaps more surprisingly, three times faster than social network adoption. Industry estimates from 2012 suggested there were more than 640m iOS and Android devices in use globally with further expansion expected into new global markets beyond North America and Western Europe.

It is also forecast that this year will see the number of internet-connected mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, exceed the number of desktop and laptop personal computers in use.

While Android is becoming increasingly popular, iOS remains the overwhelming preference of many application developers due to enhanced user flexibility.

The current demand combined with the forecast in future growth is proving to be a real issue for firms requiring mobile developers, so much so that many are now looking to bring these skills in-house on a permanent basis. This represents a new trend, marking a move away from employers offering experts more lucrative and flexible short term contracts and creates some real challenges within the IT recruitment sector.

The demand for iOS developers has created a bidding war where many well-qualified candidates are being poached by rival firms offering better remuneration for their services. While that may seem like a positive development for people like me, iOS experts are increasingly aware of their value and are therefore negotiating much tighter margins with recruitment consultants knowing they are likely to secure another, more lucrative role relatively quickly.

As a relatively new technology there is no huge pool of iOS developers and speed really is of the essence when it comes to attracting and pipelining talent. Employers must be prepared to pay well for permanent candidates, many of which will have been spoilt with excellent contract rates in recent years. While permanent work brings longer term stability it doesn’t always override the desire for more income in the short term.

It is also important for employers not to limit their search to the UK. Increasingly we are looking abroad to source iOS talent and other IT skill-sets. We have seen some exceptional candidates emerge across Eastern Europe, France and Italy who are keen to work in the UK.

It is also important for employers to have a more open-minded approach regarding the experience levels amongst applicants. There are enthusiastic individuals in the marketplace who, despite having limited commercial experience in the technology, have a real passion for iOS and develop their knowledge in their spare time. We have successfully recruited such individuals as part of an iOS team for larger organisations where they work alongside more formally qualified colleagues. This can be a useful and often cost-effective solution.

While it is possible to find talent through internal and external business contacts, working with an agency can ultimately prove to be more cost efficient as they tend to have relationships with qualified professionals they have placed in previous roles.

Those employers who have been successful securing iOS professionals on a permanent basis will also face an additional management challenge with their new colleagues. They must now utilise this resource in a different way to ensure that they become a strategic part of their operation, understanding, championing and driving the business forward rather than simply delivering on a specific project.

Given the current boom in iOS and the forecast for the technology to continue to flourish it is a skill set which should continue to offer candidates excellent employment prospects for the foreseeable future. This will also result in some major challenges for employers who require these skills. Those who adopt a global and open-minded approach will be best placed to succeed in securing the talent they need.

Kathryn Nash is a consultant at the London office of global recruitment firm Bright Purple Resourcing


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