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December 1, 2021

How will Accenture’s 3,000 new jobs affect the UK tech skills shortage?

The IT services giant's massive recruitment drive has been billed as a way to address the UK's tech skills shortage. But is it merely adding to the problem?

By Pete Swabey

UK politicians have welcomed IT services giant Accenture’s plan to create 3,000 new jobs in the UK by 2024 as a boost to the UK’s digital sector. The UK is undergoing an ‘unprecedented’ tech skills shortage, however, and some argue that IT services providers add to the scarcity of tech skills by hoovering up talent. But others say Accenture’s investment in skills will improve the career prospects of UK tech workers and help diversify the country’s skills base beyond London.

Accenture UK jobs

Accenture plans to fill the 3,000 new UK roles with graduates and by upskilling mid-career employees. (Photo by josefkubes/iStock)

Accenture announced yesterday that it plans to expand its UK workforce by adding 3,000 roles by 2024. The IT services company currently employs 11,000 people in the country. Half of the new jobs will be located outside of London, in the company’s offices in Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Accenture’s decision to expand its UK workforce is a response to “demand from our clients in technology services and cloud engineering, but also sustainability and intelligent operations,” Shaheen Sayed, Accenture’s technology lead for UK and Ireland, told Tech Monitor.

UK politicians welcomed Accenture’s announcement as a boost to the country’s post-pandemic recovery. “This expansion by Accenture is a great example of the kind of digitally focused, high-skilled jobs that will help level up economic growth across the whole of the UK and help us build back better,” said business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

Accenture UK recruitment: why is it expanding its workforce?

While Accenture’s own Tech Talent Tracker for the first half of this year found that UK tech job listings were still below pre-pandemic levels, “we are seeing green shoots of recovery,” Sayed said. “We have confidence in the UK in the long term, having seen the economy rebound swiftly following the pandemic.”

The move is a continuation of the new growth and organisational model that Accenture adopted last year, says Nitish Mittal, partner at IT analyst company Everest Group. The company shifted from three operating groups (strategy, digital and growth market) to three regional units: North America, Europe, and growth markets. As part of that reorganisation, Accenture appointed Simon Eaves, its former chief strategy officer, to lead its UK and Ireland market unit.

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"If Accenture’s recent financial results are anything to go by, this strategy is starting to pay off," Mittal says. Last month, the company reported a 14% increase in its annual revenue to a record $50.5bn. Accenture was the global IT services provider that bounced back fastest from the pandemic.

But Accenture is not the only IT services giant expanding its UK footprint. Indian IT giants Infosys, Mphasis, HCL and Wipro have all announced plans to increase investment in their UK workforces, as clients demand more 'on-shore' IT capabilities. "This is a part of the industry’s focus to enhance client proximity, versus primarily using offshore capability hubs such as India," explains Mittal. He adds that it helps these companies' "brand building" in the UK.

This is a part of the industry’s focus to enhance client proximity, versus primarily using offshore capability hubs such as India.
Nitish Mittal, Everest Group

These moves are good news for IT services buyers, Mittal believes, as they create a pool of qualified IT workers nearby. This improves collaboration and the quality of the supplier relationship, he says.

Boosting in-market resources helps suppliers mirror the distribution of their clients' own workforce, says Mittal. And, as wages increase in traditional offshore delivery centres such as India, the Philippines and Eastern Europe, it is becoming more economically viable. "With higher wage inflation in traditional services delivery markets, these in-market investments start to seem attractive as the cost gulf reduces," Mittal says.

How will Accenture's new jobs in the UK affect the skills shortage?

The UK's tech skills shortage reached an "all-time high" this year, according to the Harvey Nash Digital Leaders Survey, published last month. Two-thirds of UK tech leaders surveyed say they are unable to keep pace with technological change due to a dearth of talent. Earlier this year, Tech Monitor's Tech Leaders Agenda survey found that cloud and cybersecurity are the most in-demand areas of IT skills.

Accenture will fill its 3,000 new roles by recruiting graduates and upskilling mid-career employees, says Sayed. "We continue to invest in our existing employees, ensuring that they stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the latest technology developments," she explains. "With technology accelerating at a pace, we’re adding to an already well-established technology curriculum for our people, including a focus on modern software engineering, multi-cloud certifications, data and AI."

But will Accenture's recruitment of 3,000 sought-after tech workers help UK organisations access the digital skills they need? Professor Leslie Willcocks, emeritus professor of work, technology and globalisation at the London School of Economics, notes that IT services companies can be both a solution and a source of tech skills shortages. "There is an interesting dynamic with service vendors and consultancies trying to get the best talent and selling it to clients, but in securing the talent, they partly create the scarcity they are servicing."

Mittal argues that IT services companies recruiting UK talent will not lead to salary increases for IT workers in the country, because they are looking beyond London to find staff. "Service providers are diversifying beyond the large commercial hubs to focus on emerging and established service delivery centres in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds, and Newcastle," he explains. "This allows them to tap into newer, and often more affordable, sources of talent to aid long-term sustenance."

Indeed, investments such as Accenture's improve the career prospects for tech workers in the UK, Mittal argues. "In the long run, investments in the UK tech talent landscape can create a flourishing ecosystem of talent supply and client demand, leading to high-quality employment opportunities in the UK and Ireland technology market."

Professor Rachid Hourizi, director of digital skills training provider at the Institute of Coding welcomed Accenture's announcement as a "very positive step towards an eventual recovery from the pandemic".

"It does draw attention back, however, to the fact that there was a well-reported digital skills gap in the UK before lockdown and to the increasing body of evidence that accelerating digital adoption is causing that gap to grow wider," he adds. "As we turn toward economic recovery, the scale and productivity impact of the UK’s digital skills shortage and the rising number of tech sector vacancies means that it is essential that we continue to create accessible pathways that allow a larger and more diverse group of people to upskill and reskill for tech careers."

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