Lynsey Skinner

Lynsey Skinner

Assessing the STEMM recruitment market

Lynsey Skinner is IT recruitment manager at Cathedral Appointments, a recruitment consultancy based in the heart of Exeter, providing recruitment solutions for businesses and individuals in Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset.

For many, the South West does not spring to mind as a hub of innovation and technology. Perhaps London, Manchester or Birmingham would come in higher on the list. However, for the readers of this …. we probably don’t need to tell you all is not what it seems. Over the last two years, Exeter and the South West has firmly put itself on the map as one of the growing tech hubs of the UK. Since I took over the IT/Tech division of Cathedral Appointments two years ago, I have witnessed the IT job market thrive, with the number of permanent jobs created soaring each month.

What has ignited the rapid growth of a sector that hardly existed a decade ago? The relocation of the Met Office to Exeter was a pivotal moment for the South West. With a heavy focus on innovation and technology, this provided a platform for other companies to relocate Headquarters/set up a site in the South West. Since then Exeter College has opened its Centre for Advanced Industrial Automation (something members of ExIST were able to experience first-hand), the Science Park has established its roots in Exeter and a number of both new and existing businesses have set up operations in the South West.

According to Tech South West report (, there are now more than 10,900 technology companies across Devon, Somerset and Cornwall – this emerging market is employing 135,713 people. This has resulted in a huge demand for digital and tech talent in the market with TechNation citing a 47% increase in jobs since 2014.

This does bring its challenges however - the availability of IT candidates in the South West can vary dramatically depending on skillset. Due to the demographics of the South West population, we are experiencing an excess number of candidates in senior project management, business analysis or IT management positions. This is usually made up of high-level candidates who have chosen to move back to the South West after a career in London, or simply those looking for a better quality of life. The challenges for businesses requiring candidates in these positions is that the job title never offers the full picture – usually, experience in a specific industry is needed.

On the flip side, we are experiencing a skill shortage of IT support professionals, particularly for first line/helpdesk roles. This may be because those at the beginning of their career are heading to London, where (in previous years) opportunity has been most ripe. Consequently, this has inflated salaries for IT support roles in the South West. As for developers, the lack of candidates in this field is proving difficult for businesses as they have to explore other options or ‘think outside the box’ to attract that illusive experienced developer.

What are the challenges for the future?

Encouraging and attracting top talent will be the largest challenge to the continued growth of technology market in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. I am regularly asked for advice from clients who genuinely care about retaining their top talent and of course, attracting fresh talent. There are several factors at play – our biggest piece of advice is that salary alone will not keep staff happy. Increasingly, we are gaining feedback from candidates who want increased responsibility, opportunities for progression, a flexible working environment and the chance to work with cutting edge technology. 

I see these challenges continuing for the foreseeable future. From a recruitment perspective, we are having to work hard to proactively attract candidates using a huge variety of search and selection methods. Over the past twelve months nearly 50% of our tech placements were relocators found by proactive techniques including headhunting. Gone are the days of filling a role purely by advert!

Back to article list