Growing investment will increase contractor demand

Friday 12 July 2013

Many of the industries in which contractors work are growing faster than the rest of the economy - and that means their skills are at a premium. It seems that trend is set to continue, as increased investment in some key sectors is likely to bring even greater opportunities.

Freelancers and contractors in the marketing industry are among the biggest winners. The latest Bellwether Report compiled by Markit for the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) showed that marketing budgets were revised much higher in the second quarter of this year. More than one in five companies reported revising their marketing budgets upwards over the three-month period, while just 15 per cent said theirs had been cut. The balance of 7.3 per cent was the highest since the third quarter of 2007.

Digital and online expertise is in particular demand, since the internet was the principal driver of budget growth as a whole. A net balance of 17.4 per cent of firms said their web-related marketing budget had been raised, posting the strongest reading since the first quarter of 2010. Online search and search engine optimisation rose to the highest rate for a year and a half, with a balance of 13.7 per cent.

Other disciplines showed less pronounced yet tangible improvement, with PR, sales promotion, main media advertising and direct marketing budgets on the rise. But these improvements all came at the expense of events, which posted a balance of -0.9 per cent.

“Companies are beginning to shake off the cloak of recession and are becoming more confident in the economy,” says Paul Bainsfair, IPA director general.

“This bodes extremely well for continued growth in marketing spend for the rest of 2013.”

The positive sentiment continues in other sectors, too. Deloitte’s latest Chief Financial Officers’ Survey found that expansion is well and truly back on the agenda for big business. Expectations for investment, discretionary spending and, significantly, hiring are back at levels that have not been seen since the start of 2011.

If companies are willing to commit to taking on more staff, it usually follows that they are feeling more confident about the future - and as demand grows and the need for staff increases, opportunities for contractors will increase as well.

“In recent years high levels of economic uncertainty have been a major factor holding back business investment. Uncertainty has not died, but it has eased and this bodes well for investment,” says Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte.

But talent shortages are threatening to hold some sectors back unless contractors are there to fill the void. A separate report from Deloitte in partnership with EMC, Intel and London First has found that governments need to work to fill a skills gap in technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) if London is to remain crucial to the world digital industry.

London is home to 46 per cent of all UK media jobs, 21 per cent of technology roles and 19 per cent of telecoms positions, meaning that it supports over 440,000 jobs. But as digital technology expands in the next few years this may not be enough - luckily contractors stand primed and ready to fill the gaping skills gap.

John Dickie, director of policy and strategy at London First, says that the issue will “need to be addressed if the government is serious about making London the European rival to Silicon Valley".

By Victoria McDonnell

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