Careers 2013: New ICT projects continue to boost staff demand

Survey of 500 employers show 75 percent plan to hire new staff in 2013

ICT activity is continuing to gather momentum on the back of businesses coming out of the recession, and this means plenty of job opportunities, notably in new-project work, says recruitment specialist Absolute IT.

Unfortunately this means a continued shortage of skilled ICT staff, exacerbated by a movement of competent people overseas.

However, "local employers are doing a good job of attracting [such travellers] back to New Zealand," says Absolute IT director Grant Burley, so we should not consider them a permanent loss.

The 2013 Absolute IT Employer Insight Report, based on responses by 500 employers in private and public sectors shows 75 percent plan to hire new staff in 2013 compared with 70 percent in January 2012. Nearly 38 percent of employers who responded cited new projects as the main reason for a recruitment push -- a 13 percent increase compared with January 2012.

"We're seeing an immediate need to bolster headcount to meet new project demands, driven largely by central government change, some major projects in local government and increased business and customer demands in the private sector," says Burley.

Today's growth is the continuation of a trend that has been in effect over the past two years, he says.

Newer technologies and applications of technologies, such as the use of mobile and cloud applications are helping to push that growth along. Business intelligence and customer relationship management are other current hotbeds of development, he says.

Absolute IT and fellow recruitment company Hudson see strong demand for project managers, business analysts and testers. Hudson general manger Roman Rogers also singles out data warehousing specialists and data mining analysts.

"Key areas of growth include wireless infrastructure, health IT, digital content, payments, geospatial, telecommunications and agricultural technology. Social media is also driving demand for digital skills," he says.

"Hudson has seen businesses struggling to fill positions that require a candidate to have strong business process knowledge, the ability to understand 'what the business wants' combined with a strong enough technical understanding to offer suitable solutions."

Overall "there are still shortages but this is not being felt as acutely as in the past," Rogers says.

This year, Absolute IT finds that 34 percent of job seekers are planning to move overseas, with higher pay rates the top reason, cited by 25 percent. However, there is some indication that local employers are making an effort to reduce the gap. According to the survey findings, 40 percent of employers say they're going to provide a pay rise in 2013, 40 percent are still considering it and only 16 percent ruling it out.

"The number of New Zealanders leaving for other shores is forecast to remain at high levels for the next few quarters," says Rogers at Hudson.

"Workers continue to be motivated by remuneration primarily, but Hudson has not seen a big swing in professionals coming and going overseas.

"An area where NZ employers can look to improve attraction and retention rates is around less tangible rewards than salary alone," he says. "Hudson views the ICT sector as being notably progressive in this area, offering benefits such as training, flexible working arrangements, project milestone bonuses and technology devices."

Hudson, like Absolute IT, sees ICT demand as strong for the coming year, with a good deal of new work. "The government is investing heavily in smarter online services with the aim of seeing an average of 70 per cent of New Zealanders' most common transactions with government completed in a digital environment by 2017 -- up from 24 per cent currently," says Rogers.

However, employers are selecting their projects carefully, he says. "Hudson is still seeing organisations re-prioritising projects as they evaluate how quickly it will return profit, savings, and efficiencies. This is not only due to 'on hold' projects from the past but because of the risk-averse behaviours and stronger financial disciplines decision-makers have adopted following the economic downturn.

"In essence, before a new initiative is executed, there are far more questions being asked before it is signed off. ICT leaders have also commented that business continues to ask for more and that they have to push back to ensure the most effective projects are being run."

This article is part of a Computerworld series on ICT careers. See also: What are large employers looking for?, Game studios bolster industry and Tech roles in hot demand.

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