Where Are Britain’s App Developers?

Mobile App Development added £4bn to the UK economy last year – but it includes only 0.6% of the working population.

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The demand for mobile app developers in the UK is high, but with only 0.6% of the working population in this sector, it’s hard to meet companies’ needs in this crucial area. Application development is a multibillion dollar business. While the job market in this sector is wide open, there are currently various challenges to finding one as an app developer. A CBI survey in 2014 found 45% of London businesses were facing a skills shortage. Much of this was in IT, engineering, and creative disciplines, showing just how impactful the lack of skills has been.

Reports as early as 2011 showed mobile developer jobs were on the rise. As job listings on sites such as Elance.com and Dice.com were increasing, developer positions were growing even faster. Applicants today have grown up in a generation of mobile phones and devices. Even with new programming technologies, languages such as HTML or Javascript are still needed. Many development firms are looking for candidates who’ve mastered multiple programming languages.

Another prerequisite is understanding how apps are used. Landing a £70,000 annual salary is not unheard of in the development world. In just a year, that’s risen 27% according to ReThink Recruitment. For an app developer looking for a new job that means taking a close look at the skills and experience they have to offer, and even considering continuing education and certification programs.

The Demand on App Developers

As was stated, developers with expertise in multiple programming languages stand a better shot at the higher salary jobs. Other skills include working knowledge of user interfaces and object-oriented programming. Top companies also look for candidates who understand design patterns and their impact on end users.

It’s also imperative to understand today’s mobile platforms. Android and iOS require specific programming skills as do other platforms in a diverse market. There are also a number of APIs, user interface tools, and other technical variables to consider. One of the factors influencing the designing and programming of apps is how people interact with smart phones and devices. It’s much different than working with a laptop or desktop, according to Hap Aziz, Director of Rasmussen College School of Technology and Design. That college was one of the original institutions to develop a mobile application focused curriculum.

On its website, the school says its program offers the technical skill development and programming skills employers are looking for. Graduates have gone on to work for large corporations such as Microsoft, Citrix, Wells Fargo, Verizon Wireless, and others. More “conventional” Web technologies such as drop-down menus and self-help screens have been replaced by other features more easily viewed on a mobile screen.

Also putting pressure on mobile app developer candidates is the rapid flux of the technology and tools. High level computing education is not enough. One must be ready to continue to learn and experiment. An enthusiasm for the industry and tools such as app design software is essential as well.

Finding the Elusive British App Developer

The challenge for employers has been to find developers with the right skills. From ordering food to making online payments, forecasting the weather, or completing online banking, there is no shortage of applications for apps. The scope of what an app can do expands every day.

In a 2012 GigaOm survey of app developers, 75% of those responding said making apps was a part time affair. Many of them had a different full-time job. A third of them were earning under $100 a month on just ad-supported programs. As the app industry was booming, many developers were nurturing a hobby, supplementing their daily work, or working for a startup.

Large companies are fine tuning their app development business models. In June 2015, Indeed.co.uk had over 35,000 job postings for application development. Many of these were by large, high-volume organizations looking for software engineers, analysts, game designers, and even bioinformatics specialists. Anything from technology firms to financial companies, to consulting agencies were seeking highly qualified candidates.

Addressing the Talent Shortage

A BCS report in June 2014 summed up the persistent skills shortage and included insight by Zahid Jiwa, Vice President of UK&I OutSystems UK. It suggested internal actions by IT departments. These included investments in staff training, use of the cloud and other outside services, and learning where to automate. Another solution mentioned was to use outside vendors. Regardless, London technology firms have been paying increasingly higher salaries just to recruit talent.

App developers may have specific directions to go in by now. They may seek employment by a firm that’s streamlined its IT department or a vendor serving multiple organizations. The UK government has made changes too. It has tried to bring the education system up to par in terms of preparing graduates for IT careers. Still, organizations face kills shortages and productivity challenges today.

It’s Not Too Late

Startups and agencies who can’t keep up will certainly lose out to corporations with the most skilled developers. The market seems to be in a state of growth expected to continue. ITJobsWatch reported an over 14% increase in mobile application development jobs in 2015 over the same period in 2014. For those looking to break into the app development job market, education and training are available to become more qualified and fill crucial vacancies across the country.

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