The UK will need another 300,000 IT workers by 2020, but already companies are finding it hard to recruit staff for security, mobile, green tech and cloud computing projects.

According to the research by tech employers body e-skills UK nearly one fifth of all vacancies are difficult to fill due to skills shortages.

The report said the “digital sector” – which includes software, services and telecoms – contributes nearly £69bn to the economy. It said the UK has around 1.1 million IT workers with just under half working in technology companies, while the rest are most likely to be employed in finance and professional services, manufacturing or the public sector.

The report found that employment in the sector has risen by an average rate of 5.5 percent between 2009 and 2012, and 89 percent of jobs in the sector are located in England, seven percent in Scotland and two percent each in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Looking at the skills required for cloud, green tech, security and mobile projects the report warned: “A recurring finding across the technologies was the  need for high level IT architects, big data and security specialists. The growing need for IT staff with the ability to analyse and interpret big data was widely reported.”

It added that there are already indications of increasing competition for higher-level skills across these new technologies, leading to recruitment difficulties for roles with specialist skill sets such as IT architects, user experience designers, analysts and developers. “Finding suitably skilled staff is recognised as a key challenge for employers in the sector to realise business growth and capitalise on the opportunities that these emerging technologies offer,” the report warns.

The report said the current economic climate is a strong driver for cloud computing, enabling companies to move into new markets, reduce costs and become more agile and said that while big data, security, virtualisation and networking are among the core skills for workers on these projects, “IT specialists need broader business skillsets, especially risk management and business stakeholder management, to bridge the divide between IT and wider business operations”.

The growth in demand expected for cloud services has significant implications for the high level skills required by service providers, it said. “Employers report that generally competition for higher level IT skills means that they find it difficult to recruit into cloud roles, relying on contractors/consultants while they redeploy and upskill their existing staff.”