Amid the din created by enthusiasm for the Internet and associated technologies is the barely audible voice of human resource and personnel departments around the country bemoaning the shortage of talented, skilled Web developers and Internet project managers to feed the corporate "get online and get noticed" frenzy.
A recent US study rated Web development skills as the most sought-after skill set in information technology departments. Californian-based RHI Consulting surveyed 1400 CIOs of companies with 100 employees or more and found that "Internet/intranet development" had muscled its way into first spot for the most popular skill category, a position held by "networking" for the past four years.
Australian industry pundits confirm that the demand for skill sets associated with Web development is just as sought after on this side of the Pacific.
Local assembler ASI Solutions managing director Maree Lowe confirms that it is precisely the mix of skills required by Web development projects that make positions so hard to fill.
"Web development requires an interesting combination of skills. It's all very well to be a programmer and know how to handle Java and Cold Fusion but Web developers must have the project management skills to get the job done. They need to be able to work with others, clients and employees, and co-ordinate a whole series of activities at the one time."The multi-tasking nature of Web development positions has not been lost on recruitment agencies with industry specialists such as Australian-based IT & T Careers, confirming a shift in focus from technical skills to people skills and experience.
IT & T Careers director Steven Hayes explained why technical skills are becoming less important in the IT recruitment business.
"We are increasingly looking at different industries. We are recruiting people from the media who have the project management background because the skill set they have is similar to what we are looking for in terms of Web development.
The technical skills associated with Web development are not that hard to understand. Our most successful clients are looking for people with a background in project development and training them in the technical side."Skill sets are not the only concern for HR departments. Web developer positions are increasingly designed around packages which allow new recruits to develop their skills as they grow with their employer.
The problem with training has long been how to maintain staff once they are trained. With contract work paying double what is offered by permanent positions, Web developers are more attracted to short-term, big pay positions once they have a minimum skills base to launch themselves on the contract marketplace.
"Keeping people once they are trained has always been a difficult issue. It is not just a matter of who pays the most, employers really have to look at salary packaging, and they need to provide training and long-term benefits like loyalty programs. People need to feel that they have an important role in the development of the company, then they are more likely to stay," commented Lowe.
However, changes to the tax system to be implemented with the GST may also force some changes to the Web developer market, according to Hayes.
"Long-term contracting is going to become far less attractive, and as developers are increasingly looking to full-time placements they will also become increasingly interested in looking for the right environment. Companies that want to protect themselves from skills shortages have to put the planning in and develop the work practices and remuneration packages that attract good staff."