Demand for cloud, AI and robotics skills rises, despite tech job opening decline in 2020

The latest tracker results from Accenture, which drew from LinkedIn’s Professional Network data, show increased demand for emerging technology skills, including those relating to the cloud, AI and robotics, in Leeds, Manchester and Oxford.

With nearly 35,000 roles advertised, cloud computing was the most in-demand technology skill in the UK over the past year, which reflects the fact that due to the pandemic, a greater number of companies looked to cloud services to support remote workforces and transform businesses.

Vacancies posted asking for AI skills, meanwhile, have also seen a resurgence, jumping 73% in six months, to approximately 6,800, and robotics roles are up by almost two-thirds, to over 3,000.

The Accenture study found that the overall decline in tech job openings was driven by a reduced number of listings for data analytics and cyber security professionals, which fell 53% and 54%, respectively.

The tracker also revealed signs that UK tech professionals have expanded their skillsets, with the number of skills listed on LinkedIn jumping up by 22% in January compared to last year, resulting in over a million people in the UK now having at least one key technology skill on their profile.

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“While the pandemic has taken a toll on the UK’s overall technology jobs market, certain tech skills still remain in great demand,” said Shaheen Sayed, Accenture’s technology lead for the UK and Ireland.

“Businesses have been accelerating their cloud migrations quicker than anyone could have imagined, and are digitising business processes to make the most of technology.

“As more businesses seek to hire cloud, AI and robotics talent, experienced professionals are learning new skills to keep on top of the changing technology landscape and enhance their marketability.

“Ensuring that UK businesses can access the right tech talent is critical not only for recovery from the pandemic, but for future economic growth as well.”

Northern England sees robotics boost

Demand for robotics skills has jumped dramatically in several northern UK cities since July 2020, notably across historically industrial strongholds such as Newcastle (450%), Leeds (253%) and Liverpool (115%).

However, Accenture’s analysis found that 41% of all tech-related job postings are for professionals based in London, and over 420,000 technology professionals — one-third of all tech professionals in the UK — still cite the capital as their current base, despite the rise in remote working.

The next largest technology hub, Manchester, has just over 27,000 technology professionals—less than one-fifteenth as many as London.

Cambridge, home to more than 3,000 AI professionals, remains the strongest AI hub outside of London, but demand for AI skills is growing in other areas at a greater pace, with job postings in Leeds doubling, while Edinburgh and Manchester saw surges of 96% and 92% respectively.

What’s more, demand for quantum skills increased by 3,400% in Oxford since July, while further demand rises in this area of tech were seen in Edinburgh (114%), London (96%) and Manchester (82%).

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Allan King, managing director for Accenture’s UK Advanced Technology Centre in Newcastle, commented: “The rise in demand for robotics engineers in northern England is a strong suggestion that the region’s industrial sector is looking to innovate its way to recovery.

“However, the demand for technology skills across the UK is still unbalanced, despite expectations that home-working could help diversify the economy. Open roles in technology are still concentrated in London, which could threaten an equal jobs recovery as we emerge from the pandemic.

“That said, with more than a million skilled technology professionals across the country, the opportunity to recruit from a more diverse geographic pool of talent has never been better.”

The Accenture UK Tech Talent Tracker queried emerging technology keywords on the LinkedIn Professional Network in the last week of January 2021.

The study assessed skills of both existing roles and open positions and querying for nine technologies: data analytics, artificial intelligence, extended reality, blockchain, quantum computing, cyber security, robotics, cloud computing, and ethical/responsible technology.

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.