Those with skills staying employed, survey shows

VoIP, development and storage expertise are in demand

Information technology is being less affected by the recession than many other employment sectors, because it is seen as a core business function.

That's the conclusion of recruitment firm Robert Walters' latest market update, which covers the April to June quarter just gone.

The update for Auckland notes: "Technology is considered by many organisations to be a core business function and therefore we should see a higher priority of hiring in this area compared to others.

"Projects that were put on hold in quarter four of 2008 and quarter one of 2009 have been reviewed and projects that are classified as business-critical, such as implementations and upgrades, will need to go ahead to ensure that technology moves forward and keeps up to date.

"This should result in the growth of demand for highly skilled candidates in the project space."

However, the hiring downturn in IT which started last year continued into the April to June quarter, the update notes. But the quarter saw some light, nonetheless.

"Despite uncertainty in the market, small pockets of requirement remained.

"There was a slight increase in hiring activity in the IT contract market, which we attribute to the decrease in permanent vacancies, as large organisations significantly reduced the amount of full-time equivalent roles being signed off and reviewed their current staffing needs.

"Contract rates decreased sharply compared to a year ago, due to an increase in the number of good candidates available in the market and the flexibility with rates that candidates were willing to accept."

Projects being put on hold resulted in lower demand for project managers, business analysts and test analysts.

In telecommunications, there was an increased demand for engineers, designers and architects, the update notes.

"Telecommunication companies invested in upgrading mobile communication networks and continued rollouts of VoIP, to meet the growth and increased competition in the fixed line area."

ERP skills were also in demand in Auckland during the quarter, at functional, technical and helpdesk support levels.

In Wellington, the update notes, "despite the economic downturn, we continued to see demand in certain pockets of IT for quarter two.

"With the line by line review of government departments, there have been a number of restructures, resulting in positions being disestablished and new positions and structures created.

"In more business-aligned IT roles such as project managers, business analysts and IT managers, employers are finding it easier to attract candidates at reduced rates compared to 2008."

For more technical roles, breadth of experience across more than one platform is the key to being hired, the update says.

"There has been an increase in demand for skilled system administrators and engineers with broad technical strengths across multiple platforms and networks.

"Employers now look for candidates who tick a few more boxes compared to last year.

"This is a reflection on budget and cost constraints, plus the process employers now go through to get sign-off on hiring."

Data warehouse experts and database administrators remain in demand, the update notes.

Overall, in the capital, "the permanent IT recruitment sector will be slower this year than in 2008, based on fewer positions available and a number of projects on hold".

When it comes to contracting, demand dropped markedly in the January to March quarter, due to employers offering contractors permanent roles.

"The first quarter also saw an oversupply of contractors available and fewer positions on offer.

"The start of the second quarter has seen demand return for IT contractors with shorter-term contracts on offer [and] a reduction in daily/hourly rates."

In contracting, there is still demand for skill sets such as .Net, Java, PHP, SAP and SQL.

Data migration, data storage and information and records management "continue to be areas in hot demand", and software testing hasn't seen a reduction in demand.

Wellington's telecommunication and banking sectors continue to require skilled individuals, while project managers with VoIP or infrastructure experience are in demand.

Robert Walters' outlook is for a slow increase in all contract areas.

"Contractors will find they are in and out of contracts a lot more frequently, with less contract extensions and long-term offers." While there will continue to be more contractors vying for available roles, "those contractors at the top end will still move in and out of the market quickly and so speed will still be a requirement to secure the best contractors".

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