Demand for IT skills softens

Demand for IT skills softens

Two new reports into Australia's IT jobs show demands soften but industry remains strong

Two new reports into Australia’s IT jobs space have found demand has softened, but the industry remains stronger than most other sectors.

According to the latest Olivier Job Index, IT&T online job ads continue to disappear but the sector is faring better than others.The recruitment firm’s monthly survey found IT&T sector job ads fell 1.43 per cent in February, compared to a national decline of 9.03 per cent. Olivier’s overall market index has dropped 38.65 per cent in the past 12 months.

“There is a fall in the number of ads and a lot of talk about retrenchments, but it’s more in the blue collar sector now – IT is struggling along quietly, rather than spectacularly,” Olivier Group director, Robert Olivier, said. “It’s not doing well, but it’s not going to be the worst by a long shot.”

Software development and engineering recruitment was down the most, with a 3.75 per cent drop in online ads last month, and 51 per cent annually. Sales and management proved the strongest segment and was up 4 per cent. Olivier said some organisations still had the resources to recruit and strengthen their sales teams.

“I think that is a very wise move in this market because there is some great talent available,” he said. Olivier predicted people coming off IT contracts would struggle the most as companies leaned towards permanent positions. But he warned against feeling despondent from the negative forecasts.

“It is very easy to get drawn into the Dow Jones going down, Iceland’s bankruptcy and that they’re printing money in the UK,” Olivier said. “But there are still 21,000 IT advertisers out there and you only need one of them.”

The Peoplebank Quarterly IT&T Salary Index told a similar story, and found salaries had also fallen. The report covers more than 50 ICT skill categories based on permanent and contractor employees across Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra. The latest report ran from December to February.

Twelve months ago, the market was overheated for IT people, Peoplebank COO, Peter Acheson, said.

“The first thing companies do when they hit a period of economic turbulence is freeze headcount and put major capital projects on hold. Some of them would be IT projects and as a result of that there’s now less demand for IT people then there was a year ago,” he said.

Salaries fell across many job titles tracked, but fluctuations for similar roles in different cities showed demand remains a factor. Sydney was one of the highest paying cities, with Java/J2EE developers, technical solutions architects, project managers and business analysts most in demand. According to Peoplebank, this was mainly due to major projects in the NSW government and telecommunications arenas.

NSW-based enterprise organisations were roughly paying $350,000 for a senior IT director, compared to $200,000 for similar roles in Perth and Brisbane.

“There are more available candidates than there are jobs and as a result of that, employers are able to negotiate better arrangements from the point of view of lower salaries,” Acheson said.

While the ICT skills market remained buoyant in most cities, Canberra contractor rates dropped by 5-10 per cent. But Acheson remained confident demand would strengthen throughout 2009, particularly around Web 2.0 skills.

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