Y2K doesn't dent IT optimism

Y2K doesn't dent IT optimism

The latest Morgan & Banks job index has hit the streets, with an emphasis this quarter on the increase in demand for Internet skills.

The IT industry once again far exceeds general industry trends with 50.6 per cent of employers planning to increase staff levels in the next three months. This compares to a net expectation of 25 per cent across all industries, including IT.

"In all sizes of companies we are seeing a lot of work on the Internet, as well as an increase in demand for networking skills and PC development such as C++, Web design and front- and back-end e-commerce development," explained Matthew Gordon, director of Morgan & Banks Australasia.

Medium-sized businesses, which Morgan & Banks defines as between 20 and 200 employees, are poised to experience the most growth because of the movement towards the Internet. "Medium businesses are going to see the most gain from e-commerce. They have the money to invest and are going for the market share of the large businesses tied down to other systems," said Gordon.

Legacy and mainframe expertise are decreasing in popularity, according to Gordon who suggests that "most of the legwork and recruitment in these areas has already been done".

South Australia and the ACT saw a significant decline in the number of companies planning to hire new staff, a scenario Gordon attributes to Y2K concerns. Although both are still experiencing growth above other overall industry trends of 45.8 per cent and 30.8 per cent respectively they have experienced a downturn of 7.5 percentage points in South Australia and 22.2 percentage points in the ACT. "Organisations in those states are on a smaller scale so are feeling the effects of Y2K more. The other states probably won't slow down because of Y2K simply because of the types of businesses based there. They are mostly international companies that have received their budgets for Y2K from overseas," said Gordon.

Gordon predicts that if any Y2K ramifications do emerge they will only be felt in March next year. In the meantime, GST compliance will shape companies' hiring regimes. "GST will have a major impact on Australia with large organisations already preparing. Because of this we are seeing an increase in demand for project managers," explained Gordon.

However, the current global skills shortages has forced many organisations into contractual arrangements where they would have preferred permanent staff, a conflict that is driving up IT salaries. "The contract market is very buoyant because there is a massive amount of permanent positions that haven't been filled. But because organisations want permanent staff they are willing to pay more in the form of bonuses, salaries and other incentive schemes," Gordonsuggested.

Australia is attempting to fill the skill void with overseas workers. "There's a significant number of non-nationals being employed in Australia. A lot of English and Indian people who have IT skills are being given jobs. The Department of Immigration is even going to make it easier for graduates with IT skills to become residents. Previously, you had to have two or three years experience before you could do that," said Gordon.

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