As we enter 2021, economists are doing their best to predict markers for recovery despite the great uncertainty. The impact of subsequent lockdowns and Brexit will be far reaching, with PwC’s report forecasting that the UK’s unemployment rate will record its largest ever quarterly increase after the furlough scheme ends in March. But it’s not all bad news. The UK’s FTSE 100 has already risen almost 7% in 2021 so far, highlighting investors’ belief that the economy will grow sharply this year. The recovery will be uneven across sectors and could be bumpier than initially anticipated as the virus mutates and evolves. However, January brings the first look at what that recovery might look and how sector hiring will be affected by the evolving situation.
Financial services take a downturn
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has warned that up to 4,000 financial services firms in the UK are at risk of failing due to the coronavirus pandemic. Insurance services groups, payments firms and investment managers all reported a fall in liquidity. Payments and e-money had the lowest proportion of profitable firms as a sector. That was followed by wholesale financial markets, investment management, insurance intermediaries and brokers, retail lending, and retail investments. Retail lenders have been hit particularly hard as this sector has received the largest amount of government-backed help through the support schemes, leaving lenders and investors redundant.
These are mostly small and medium-sized businesses, with around 30 percent having the potential to “cause harm in failure”. The FCA’s survey didn’t include the 1,500 largest firms in the UK financial sector, which are regulated by the Bank of England. It’s hoped that many of these financial services will be able to bolster their resilience when economic conditions improve, but the immediate downturn will have a negative impact on some areas of financial hiring.
Healthcare hiring remains high
In addition to the immediate impact of the virus and its changing mutations, the pandemic is having a wider impact on the population. Scientists are saying the UK could see a “baby bust” in 2021, with the annual birth rate dipping to the lowest level since records began. As the UK’s population tips towards the elderly, our healthcare system must adapt to deal with more age associated illness and injuries, as well as future virus outbreaks, creating a massive demand for NHS staff.
Medical discoveries and new technologies are opening up more opportunities to treat patients, while also easing some of the administrative burden on healthcare workers. However, this is still one area where demand massively outstrips supply. The need for mental health professionals, in particular, is acute, as increasing numbers of people are reporting symptoms of severe anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or problem drinking. The vaccination programme is also driving NHS hiring as the government’s pledge to inoculate 15 million people by mid-February creates a new sense of urgency.
The NHS is due for an overhaul, and while funding remains an issue, work opportunities in the health sector will become wider and more varied. While the demand for qualified medical professionals to work on a full-time or contractual basis is constant, there are increasing opportunities to work for the healthcare sector in diverse support roles such as tech, research and administration contracts, as well as roles that utilise skills such as art and music as therapies. This could present a prime opportunity for workers with these skills to move into areas from sectors where hiring is subdued.
Green sector hiring set to boom when situation stabilises
While some green projects will experience disruption and holdups this year, the environment will still be an important focus for 2021. Once the virus is under control, policymakers’ attention will focus on laying the foundations for sustainable and inclusive growth. One of key areas they will look at is the green sector. Business leaders should begin to think about how they can reposition their organisations so that they are better placed to exploit significant government investment in this area.
Green bonds, which are used to directly finance environmental projects, currently make up less than 5% of the global fixed income market. But in 2021 the issuing of green bonds will increase by over 40%. In addition, investor appetite for Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) funds will continue to increase, and could account for up to 57% of total European mutual funds by 2025.
These factors will have a positive impact on hiring in the green sector in areas such as renewable electricity, which will continue to gather momentum. By the end of 2021, more than half of all electricity generated in the UK could be from renewable sources. In addition, one in every eight cars that will be newly registered in 2021 could be electric or hybrid. This will be driven by government investments, such as the Rapid Charge infrastructure.
IT skills needed across all sectors
With every subsequent lockdown, the work-from-home culture is becoming more deeply embedded, offering benefits for both businesses and workers. We’re likely to see a new hybrid working model taking over, which offers benefits for both businesses and workers. A shift away from city-living is likely to see an increase in the use of flexible workspaces that enable business and freelances to work remotely, while still maintaining some of the advantages of the traditional office.
One of the main facilitators of remote working is IT – that’s why 9 out of the 15 Top Jobs of the future are tech based. Videoconferencing technology has evolved alongside digital tools such as collaboration platforms that underpin these new ways of working. Additionally, as the retail industry moves online, digital technologies will create more opportunities than ever for a seamless customer journey. For example, brands must now provide a smooth mobile experience onsite and across digital marketing channels to meet the needs of more than 280 million expected smartphone users in 2021. There’s also a huge need for IT to deal with the cybersecurity challenges that are the by-products of digitalisation.
The need for readily deployable IT talent is rising. Organisations are actively searching for candidates who can work independently, with minimal introductory support, as traditional onboarding in the present climate is difficult. This makes conditions for IT consultants and contractors highly lucrative. As companies scramble to adjust their game plan to the rapidly evolving digital landscape, the hiring prospects are bright in tech.
Digital Marketing skills in demand
Savvy brands must take advantage of the latest technology, not only to target sell, but also to build online relationships that allow them reach out and relate to customers. Consumers are spending more time than ever researching products online before making a purchase, relying heavily on information from search queries to find new products. Because they can’t physically view, compare, or touch products, it’s even more critical for brands to offer a strong online presence, with product descriptions, ratings and reviews.
For this reason, video marketing is likely to become an essential tool for digital marketers in 2021, with visual commerce playing a pivotal role in the shopping experience. Visual commerce will also be a 2021 shopping trend as touchless shopping continues to offer peace of mind. Many brands will create 360-degree imagery or videos for top-selling products. This digital environment will also fuel a need for digital creatives to generate interesting content that will create tangible connections with customers.
Hiring consultants will be key to business success
Contributing more than £11bn to the UK economy, consultants have worked throughout the pandemic supporting their clients and delivering essential work. Covid-19 has shown how essential consultants are if organisations are to successfully adapt to an ever evolving “new normal.” Consultants provide critical expertise and experience that many companies don’t have in-house, but which benefits their bottom line. Their knowledge of best practice allows businesses to achieve their goals quickly and effectively.
In terms of the changes that businesses must now make, management consultants are critical in ensuring best business performance is achieved in terms of operations, profitability, management, structure and strategy. Interim managers and management consultants should be aware of how they might be affected by the IR35 changes coming in April. Typically, businesses may also need to engage consultants in specific departments. For many individuals who have accumulated a wealth of expertise in their field of practice, now could be an excellent time to transition into consulting work.
More news on companies that are hiring in January can be found here. If you’re starting a new contract, ContractingWISE has access to a wide range of hassle-free services that can help you with setting up a limited company or finding the right umbrella company for you. To talk to a member of our team, call: 0203 642 8679