When I look back on the year, I think the word which best sums 2016 is ‘change’. At a global level, we have seen unprecedented political change in two of the world’s major economies, we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of cyber security breaches globally and engineering history has been rewritten with a number of significant breakthroughs. Of course, people perceive change differently. For some, it represents progress, for others it represents disruption. Either way, I think we can all agree that 2016 has been a year of considerable flux.
A year of political surprises
In the UK, the referendum resulted in Britain voting to leave the European Union and David Cameron stepping down as Prime Minister. Currently, there is no clear picture of the long-term effects Brexit will have on the freedom of movement within Europe and how trade agreements might change but proceedings for Britain to exit the EU are expected to begin by the end of March 2017. Whilst we are yet to see a major impact on the recruitment demands of our clients following the referendum, I, and I’m sure many of our clients, will be keen to hear more details of the UK Government’s Brexit plans in the new year.
Across the pond, the United States also experienced a surprising political development when Donald Trump won the presidential election. With continued investment in our US capabilities, we will be keen to see what the new president has to say about the jobs market and his plans for investing in engineering and technology in his inauguration speech on 20 January. So far, through his election campaign, speeches and post-election interviews, we have been encouraged to hear about Trump’s intentions for big investment in infrastructure and his plans to reshore manufacturing jobs to the States. Less has been said about technology, but Trump has alluded to his desire to change telecommunications policy on net neutrality.
A year of tests and trials for tech
In the world of IT, I've been particularly struck by the incredible volume of cyber security breaches that have taken place around the globe. In the UK, Tesco Bank and Three Mobile are just two high profile examples of businesses which have been victims of hacks. On a global level, as many as 1.3 million Android phones have been ‘infected’ by a new malware dubbed the ‘Gooligan’ strain, which infiltrates Google accounts and forces users into downloading apps to create an advertising revenue stream for the hackers.
The high level of criminal cyber activity this year proves that no device and no business or individual is 100% safe from the threat, highlighting the need for robust security measures. The demand for IT professionals with security expertise is already high and I would expect this trend to continue in the year ahead, especially with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation looming. This is an area we are already investing in and of course we'll continue to do so.
In 2017 we can also expect to see more progress being made in the development of 5G, not just in the US which is already host to several test locations but also in the UK, where the Chancellor has proposed to invest £1bn to improve the nation’s connectivity and offered a 100% business rates relief for new full-fibre infrastructure over the next five years. Recent reports into the UK’s 4G availability clearly illustrates the poor connections we currently have and how much work there is to do before we can become the ‘world leader of 5G’ that the Government has commited to.
Aside from testing times in the world of cyber security, this year has also seen more trials of autonomous vehicles. Autonomous buses have been trialled in Finland and in the US; Uber has put driverless cars on the road. I’m sure we’ll see further developments in the year ahead and the debate around how much we should rely on autonomy verses human control will continue.
A year of engineering firsts
In maritime, the world’s largest cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas, was launched with a capacity of almost 9,000 passengers and crew. Another record it has broken is for the tallest slide at sea, which is some 10 stories high!
The aerospace industry also saw some amazing feats this year. In the UK, we cheered on British astronaut Tim Peake as he safely returned from his six month mission on the International Space Station. Whilst he wasn’t the first Briton to go into space, his commitment to share his experiences live on social media and his eye-catching ability to run a marathon in sync with participants in the London marathon, made this mission a particularly memorable moment of 2016. NASA also made a breakthrough when the Juno satellite was successfully launched into Jupiter’s orbit.
The aerospace and renewables industries also had the spotlight on them when Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg circumnavigated the globe in a carbon-fibre aircraft, powered solely by clean energy sources. With the high targets countries around the world have set to reduce the consumption of non-renewable energy sources, renewables is an industry which is bound to see continued growth in the new year.
In the UK, the infrastructure and nuclear sectors should also continue to thrive with the decision on the expansion of Heathrow, Hinkley Point being given the go ahead and continued investment in major rail and highways projects.
And finally, a year of business transformation
As you may well be aware, Gattaca has been on quite a journey the past 12-24 months. We’ve taken on a new identity, we’ve restructured and rebranded our underlying operating brands, Matchtech and Networkers, and we’ve taken on new faces and new spaces. Gattaca is extraordinarily well placed to take advantage of all of the opportunities referred to above. We are heading into the new year with a continuing commitment to expand internationally and to progress on our journey to achieve our vision of becoming the leading specialist recruiter in all our markets. I'd like to thank everyone who is following my blog and to wish you all a very happy Christmas and best wishes for the new year.