Demand for interim managers is strong around the world with most overseas opportunities based in Continental Europe, studies show.

Friday 3 May 2013

Interim managers are enjoying a period of historically high demand and not all of it is based in the UK. Many of the UK’s independent workers at least consider taking assignments abroad at some point during their careers, and it seems that the move is paying off for the contracting industry as a whole.

A survey by the Interim Management Association (IMA) has found that nearly eight out of ten interim managers would vote to stay in the European Union, with the belief that membership is good for business firmly behind most responses.

Because the union’s open borders allow for the free movement of people as well as goods, Europe offers the flexibility to relocate to work on different projects across all 27 member states. As Jason Atkinson, IMA chairman and managing director of Russam Interim, says, this is the biggest factor in encouraging support for the EU among contractors - increasing numbers of freelancers are taking work on the continent where there is strong demand for their expertise.

The UK has the most established interim workforce in the world, according to Mr Atkinson, which continues to be among Britain’s strongest exports. Most are highly skilled, experienced and knowledgeable professionals and interim managers from the UK have excellent understanding of the principles of governance. Many also have a command of foreign languages, he adds, which makes their skills highly transferable.

Of the interim managers currently working abroad, Mr Atkinson noted that the vast majority were scattered around the EU, with a smaller number working in Asian countries. This could be because some of Europe’s best developed economies welcome skilled workers from overseas - for example, German employment legislation is less strict than UK law, so businesses make much quicker hiring decisions.

It is well documented that other sectors are seeing record demand as well. Forecasts point to a total of 900,000 unfilled IT vacancies around the EU by 2015, a figure which has prompted the European Commission to launch a whole programme of support to keep the IT industry on its feet.

The plans include the development of a common certification for IT professionals across the whole of the union, acting as a universal gold standard which will ensure that contractors’ skills are recognised equally across the EU, making it easier for them to take on work in other states. But possibly more significant is the package of funding and support designed to help IT professionals relocate across the union to the areas where their skills are in the shortest supply, allowing them to take the fullest advantage of the demand they are enjoying.

EU officials plan to alleviate this acute skills shortage by increasing access to IT education for the huge numbers of unemployed young people throughout the Union. Major companies such as Google and Microsoft have agreed to take part in training programmes, but there will still be a powerful demand both for contractors both to carry out training and to fill the gaps in this fast-growing industry until the labour market can catch up. With demand at such high current levels and unparalleled access to a vast market, it seems that for many contractors the only way is Europe.

By Victoria McDonnell

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