Keyboards Rental: Freelance Technicians Help Companies Close Talent Gaps

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From software engineers to data scientists, CIOs stack corporate technology teams with mercenaries, filling skills gaps with freelancers and independent contractors.

The strategy, which is not new but has seen an upsurge since the onset of Covid-19, comes as companies rush with pandemic-boosted plans to digitize more business processes, CIOs, firms say recruiters and industry analysts.

At the same time, they say, the rise of remote working, cloud computing and advanced data tools is generating record demand – and fierce competition – for cloud engineers and architects, data analysts, developers. artificial intelligence and other business technology professionals.

Rather than facing an uphill battle for full-time employees, many technical managers instead choose temporary workers for their expertise in specific project areas. Others hire freelancers to cover more common IT tasks, freeing up their own staff to acquire skills and experience with advanced capabilities.

Flexera Software LLC, a Chicago-based software company, currently employs about 35 freelancers in various technology roles within the company, said Conal Gallagher, CIO and the company’s chief information security officer. This is up from previous years and is expected to increase in the coming year, Gallagher said.

“The number comes and goes, depending on the project we’re doing,” Mr. Gallagher said. Right now, he said, the company is migrating many on-premise business applications to the cloud, adding, “We have a freelance writer on board to help us. Flexera has a total of approximately 1,300 permanent employees, including Gallagher’s team of 36 full-time IT professionals.

As the company’s head of online security, Mr Gallagher said he was in a good position to ensure that freelancers working remotely – a growing category – have restricted access to data, systems and networks. sensitive. “We can safely attract talent from just about anywhere and I can see us attracting more and more over time,” he said.

Last month, US employers posted 295,034 vacant IT job vacancies, bringing the total number of ads since January to nearly 2.7 million, IT trade group CompTIA said on Friday. They include a range of IT jobs at professional, scientific and technical service companies, banks and insurance companies, manufacturers, schools and retailers, among other industries, the group said.

Of a total of 5.6 million tech workers in the U.S. labor market last year, 161,000 described themselves as self-employed, up 2.1% and nearly double the share of 2019 , according to CompTIA’s analysis of US Department of Labor data. The number of tech workers classified in all other forms of employment, a broader agency category that includes part-time and temporary work, increased 2.2% to around 454,000.

Software developers, who were the most sought-after position based on job postings, were also the largest category of freelance workers, said Tim Herbert, CompTIA’s vice president for market research and intelligence. . He said it was difficult to pin down a precise figure on self-employed tech workers, in part because the Labor Department does not explicitly detail self-employment or contract work in broader employment reports. But, he added, “from an employer’s point of view, the extremely tight labor market puts all options on the table.”

More than half of 1,000 U.S. recruiters recently surveyed by the online freelance marketplace platform Upwork said the shift to remote working triggered by Covid-19 had increased their company’s willingness to hire freelancers . Among those already hiring freelance tech workers, demand was highest for web, mobile and software developers, with nearly two-thirds of hiring managers surveyed saying they plan to increase their use of tech freelancers across the board. domains over the next 12 months, according to Upwork.

Sam Bright, Upwork’s director of products and experience, said employers were starting to embrace the idea of ​​accessing talent rather than looking for permanent hires. “It gives workers a better opportunity to find something they love and employers a better opportunity to find the people they need quickly without going through the long, expensive and random hiring process,” said Mr. Bright.

Les Ottolenghi, CIO at Stride, an online education provider Inc.,

said that in addition to a full-time team of around 400 IT people, he hires freelancers in a variety of business technology areas, including workers with specialized cloud migration skills or cybersecurity experience.

The best business IT departments, he said, focus on creating business value, not managing servers or running reports. “No organization has all the skills to keep up with the pace of change,” said Ottolenghi. “This is where freelancers come in,” he said.

For their part, tech freelancers see a lucrative seller market for their skills, said Thomas Vick, regional director of technology divisions at recruiting firm Robert Half International. Inc.

“They can actually make more money working on projects as a contractor than as a full-time employee,” Vick said. “There are a lot of IT projects going on right now within companies and most don’t have the bandwidth to handle them,” he said.

Josh Burns, a 31-year-old computer scientist in Versailles, Ky. Who specializes in database administration and development, said he recently quit a paid job over $ 100,000 to pursue self-employment .

He said self-employment offers higher pay and more freedom: “I can work where I want and charge the rates I want,” Burns said.

Write to Angus Loten at [email protected]

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