A recent survey of contractor agencies by umbrella specialists Parasol has revealed that contractors should make sure they are continually developing niche and in-demand skill sets in order to make sure they get regular, highly paid work. Failing to develop such skills would mean risking regularly losing out on lucrative contracts that come along.
When conducting the survey Parasol started out by asking 40 recruitment consultants how their hiring strategy worked when their contractors were coming to the end of an assignment. Of the consultants who were surveyed, 97% surveyed when the contracts being worked by their contractors were coming to an end, but only 69 % went on to seek new assignments for those contractors in advance. Indeed, only a quarter of the consultants surveyed would place their contractors onto a 2nd and then a 3rd assignment straight after their first contract.
Why is this? The survey asked the consultants why they dropped contractors so often and the single most common answer was that ‘lack of relevant skills’ was a key factor. Jeff Blakemore, the sales director of Parasol pointed out that the responses given by these consultants and recruiters was a timely reminder to contractors that they needed to constantly keep on top of their skills development:
“We predicted that 2014 would be the year of the niche contractor, and that the era of the generalist was over. These results seem to confirm that trend … Plenty has been said and written about the UK’s skills shortage in recent months. The talent crisis only represents an opportunity…for those contractors who possess the expertise and niche skills that recruiters and their clients are crying out for.”
This was backed up by recent comments from Dave Chaplin, the CEO of Contractor Calculator who also believes that those contractors working in the main contracting sectors will need to ensure they are fully tooled up when it comes to the latest skills:
“Contractors are responsible for their own training and development, and they will find that the new contract opportunities that arise through investing in new skills more than compensate for the time and cash investment they must make in training.”
Indeed the responses given by the recruitment consultants in the Parasol survey were quite revealing. One noted that if there was no demand for the contractor’s skill set he wouldn’t pro-actively set about finding them another assignment. Another said that if they were too busy filling their current vacancies in areas in which the contractor has no relevant skills, they would not spend any time on finding them work. Finally, one recruiter seemed to sum it up best when they said that “If the contractor has generic skills that we are not looking for, we would not pro-actively ‘sell’ that kind of person.” Summarising the conclusions of the report jeff Blakemore went on to say that:
“As economic conditions improve and demand picks up, contractors who invest in their own professional development and continually enhance their skill set are in a fantastic position … In contrast, those who have failed to carve a niche for themselves may find opportunities drying up.”