There’s more tech talent in the UK (and beyond!) than ever before, yet there’s undoubtedly also more work available. Recent findings from the Office for National Statistics found that there are 98,000 vacancies for ‘professional scientific and technical roles’, up 28.2% on the previous three months. However, with only so many education institutes training individuals in these roles, the tech talent shortage isn’t slowing down. In fact, the skills needed across the industry are growing with each year.
With recent reports revealing that ‘58% of IT leaders reported either an increase or a plan to increase emerging technology investment through 2021’, organisations are eager to adopt new technology. However, many companies don’t have the budget, time, or resources to move their websites, applications, or technology onto these new and exciting platforms.
Because of this, regardless of the amount of new platforms available, technologies like Ruby and PhP (among others) are still key systems despite falling into the ‘legacy’ category. The need for those trained on legacy systems is still as high as ever, but the industry is quickly losing the talent they need to work on them.
Looking to legacy
In a world where there are more and more legacy systems that are critical to businesses, the need for legacy skills is in higher demand than many expect. Developers with these skills can provide the support and guidance for organisations who are using these platforms, and can also help gradually migrate them to newer technologies when appropriate budget and time is available.
Organisations are therefore stuck in the middle of needing legacy developers to support their existing platforms, but also needing newer tech skills to modernise and innovate. So, what’s the solution to this industry-wide challenge?
The whole package
Where the creation of new technology brings the need for new talent with the right skills, the need for legacy skills doesn’t go away. Many developers become specialists in a particular platform alone (especially emerging technologies, which many see as being the ‘job of the future’ and providing good pay), developers need to strike the right balance between understanding ageing technology while also being able to work on the new tech on the block.
Although many developers and technology professionals prefer to focus on the new rather than the old, this causes a huge disconnect between the amount of work they think is available for legacy software and programming. This is also joined by the fact that organisations are in dire need for their skills sets. Some programming languages may seem out of date, but are actually the core foundation for many businesses globally.
By pigeon-holing their capabilities to a specific platform or coding language, developers are not only limiting the amount of job roles that are available, but also restricting the amount of talent that’s available in the industry. Emerging technology is exciting, but the demand for legacy coders makes them a special breed of talent. Being trained in these core programming languages – and/or becoming a full stack developer (rather than being just front-end or back-end developers) – is a key way to differentiate in a crowded marketplace. Full stack developers are increasingly becoming unicorns, and yet are a very sought after role.
Looking to the future
It isn’t just the responsibility of those developers to take courses and expand their skills, all industry stakeholders need to come together to fix the talent shortage. From encouraging young people into tech at school-level, to broadening courses at university and providing progression and training opportunities at career-level, industry players need to come together to support talent across the entire journey.
Without this, the amount of developers who can work on legacy systems will continue to deteriorate, and developers will be pigeon-holed into working on platforms that restrict their talents. Full stack developers will reign supreme, but legacy talent shouldn’t be overlooked.