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NI Tech Industry still open for Business

As both employers and employees continue to battle against the wave of uncertainty since the outbreak of Covid-19, it’s evident that many traditional businesses are suffering the worst, with wide scale closures of restaurants, cafes, bars and shops. For many businesses across the globe, this is the toughest problem they have had to face. 

However with each passing day, the adoption of new technology platforms becomes ever more critical to business operations. This is reinforced by the trend we have witnessed with some technology companies around the world experiencing exponential growth. 

The demand for job roles within the tech sector before Coronavirus was already at record levels. In the first three months to the end of March, new listings were up  by 44%.

According to Forbes There was also a “30% growth in new job listings across the ten most in-demand jobs through March 2020, countering the downward trend in overall national hiring”.  

There has also been an increase in demand for skills within the ‘hybrid-tech sector’. In particular there is demand for expertise, knowledge and skills in Fintech, Edtech, Healthtech and Agritech. Roles within these “tech verticals” are certainly worth watching. The Tech Nation 2020 report highlighted the importance of these emerging sectors

Agritech, the sector disrupting farming and agriculture, garnered £1.84bn of investment in 2019 compared with £1.6bn in 2016. Agritech is one of the most important technology sectors worldwide. 

Healthtech companies such as UK based Voscuris are using blockchain technology to share client data with healthcare professionals.And it is shown that emerging technologies are solving some of the most complex health problems and enhancing our way of life. 

What About Startups

In recent years, Northern Ireland has seen a rapid increase in the startup ecosystem. The successful Propel and Ignite programmes at Ormeau Baths are now well established and the annual Invent Awards run by Catalyst Inc provide a proving ground for local inventors and entrepreneurs. Belfast is now a hotspot for innovation in fintech, cyber security, healthtech and more. According to the Tech Nation 2017 report 128 startups were created in Belfast alone in 2016.

The UK is also becoming Europe’s top scaling tech nation and is increasing it’s lead in the world. With over £10.1 Billion invested in the UK tech industry in 2019, the UK now invests more than Germany and France combined. 

In the last few years tech startups have received a notable amount of funding from the government. In fact, British startups raised £663m in investment in the first month after the country went into lockdown, driven by high demand for activity in the tech sector. This would indicate that the UK’s entrepreneurial minds, startups and tech savvy companies are in a strong position for innovation and growth in this current climate.  

Activity in the local Job Market

Starting a new job in the current climate may sound precarious but several companies based locally have continued hiring. The findings from our recent Covid-19 survey found that only 18% of companies planned to scale back their recruitment plans. In recent weeks, many companies have actually “onboarded” new staff despite people working from home. Aflac NI has been one such company who have onboarded several new employees virtually.

Keith Farley, Managing Director of Aflac NI said “With regard to the lockdown, Aflac Northern Ireland has doubled our employee numbers since going completely remote from 20 employees to now 41 with more starters to come.  We’ve done that through Webex meetings and video interviews, virtual onboarding, ensuring our new starts have kit in order to get them set up for day 1.

Aflac has a very employee-centric culture, so it’s been a little bit different in that we can’t provide the personal touches but we’ve worked hard at creating a collaborative team culture throughout lockdown. Like most people we’re adept at the virtual quiz, we’ve hosted scavenger hunts, virtual happy hours and even a team yoga session with a local online instructor. We’re working hard to ensure our team continues to grow to enable us to deliver technology solutions to our US customers in their time of need.”

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