I doubt that there are UK-specific skills that are particularly helpful, but then, I'm not based in the UK.
If I understand your post correctly you're not currently based in the UK. I would imagine that -given the current economic situation in the UK, and the job market implications that go with that- anyone bringing complications to the hiring process (like not currently being based there) will face difficulties.
Well, I'm in the UK and I just spent a year looking for a development job, so even some of us locals are clearly finding the market quite challenging. You could look at the main job search sites for the UK to see which skills seem to be in demand e.g. try Jobserve. There is a lot of noise about "big data", analytics and so on, although I'm not sure how far this is reflected in real job opportunities yet, and I would expect most people recruiting in this market to be looking for people with data-oriented skills, not just mainstream Java EE developers who've done a bit of SQL. Any project doing serious "big data" work will need serious "big data" skills which are quite different from mainstream Java EE.
More generally, the trend in the last 10 years has been for mainstream work to be outsourced to India - so the reason you may be having trouble finding a mainstream Java EE job in the UK is because many of those jobs have already been moved to India instead. There has also been a related trend for importing cheap developers from India, but this is most often on "intra-company transfer" (ICT) permits, which allow companies with Indian offices to bring their own staff from India to the UK for a limited period while paying low wages and avoiding UK taxes. This is mainly done by the big-name consultancies, especially for government projects where large profits can be made by the small number of companies who are able to access these contracts and who increasingly dominate many sectors of the IT market. This has removed many jobs from the open UK labour market, even though they are still UK-based, because these roles are staffed from the consultancy's offshore bases. So you could aim for a job with one of these consultancies and hope to get moved to the UK, but as you've probably seen on this forum, there are a lot of Indian developers who are competing for these "on-site" roles.
Of course, you say you already have a UK work permit, so perhaps there are other routes open to you, but I'm not sure why anybody from the UK would be looking for a mainstream Java EE developer in India unless (a) they need specialist skills that are not available in the UK, or (b) they want to pay you less than a UK-based developer because you're in/from India. You'll need to figure out for yourself which of these categories you want to compete in.
One thing I'm not entirely clear on from your original post is whether you are looking for work in the UK with the intent of moving to the UK or whether you are looking to stay put in India and work remotely for a UK company?
The fact that you already have a permit to work in the UK will work in your favour as most companies state this as a basic prerequisite for all applicants. However, unless you are willing to actually move to the UK and be physically collocated with the existing development team then I can't imagine that you'd have much success trying to get employed directly with a UK company. As Chris says, if a company wanted a remote dev resource they could get it very much cheaper than employing someone directly on a UK contract, paying UK rates.
For the rest of the discussion I'm going to assume that you are intending to move to the UK for a job.
I'm not aware of any particular technology that will improve your chances. It really depends on what industry you're looking to get into. You don't say in what domain you have been working for the last 8 years? For the most part I wouldn't imagine that any industry sector is much different here than anywhere else. Finance is finance, mobile is mobile, big data is big data. So given that, you probably know better than us what technologies are desirable for a role in your industry sector.
Also be aware that the UK is a big enough place and that your chances of success may depend greatly on where, geographically, you are applying to and also what type of contract you are looking for. For example, I have never worked in London but as far as I am aware the majority of development jobs are through fixed term contracts where you work as self employed or through some third party agency. Especially in Greater London the pay is amazing but they expect blood, so to speak. Most other places I think are more likely to be salaried direct employment.
The health of job markets vary quite considerably too in different places. I worked a few years in the south of England in what's called the "M4 Corridor" which is an area that roughly follows the M4 motorway from London out to Cardiff (in Wales). There is a lot of IT industry in that area and I've never felt that there's ever a lack of work to be had. There's a surprising amount of development jobs to be had in and around Bath and Bristol. Wonderful place to live. Great beer.
It is hard to hear that Chris faced such difficulty in finding a development job recently, and hopefully he has now found something, but do not be entirely disheartened by that. In contrast I was looking for a development job last year and was able to secure 3 offers within two weeks. It really depends on where you live.
Tim Cooke wrote:In contrast I was looking for a development job last year and was able to secure 3 offers within two weeks. It really depends on where you live.
And from the other side of the fence, my team has employed a couple of new developers in the last year or so, and barely had any applicants. It's public sector, so the pay isn't great, but it isn't that bad.
Sounds like I was unlucky or just "differently skilled" in my job search, eh? Perhaps my location (South Wales) played a part, although for the first 6 months or so I was looking for work all over the UK without any success, until recruiters started telling me they weren't interested in my CV because I'd been out of work for more than 6 months. Bristol is indeed a fun place to live - I lived there for several years - although my own impression is that the IT job market there has shrunk in recent years as many employers have either moved work offshore or been bought up and closed down by companies located elsewhere. There are still some people doing interesting work in Bristol e.g. Tom Coupland at Nokia, however, and there's certainly more going on there generally than here in Wales. The "M4 corridor-of-opportunity" seems to be retreating back across Severn bridge towards London these days.
Anyway, I now have my very own low-paid public sector job here in Wales, so at least my CV clock has been re-set!