Careers 2013: Tech roles in hot demand

IT vacancies returning to pre-GFC levels, says IITP CEO Paul Matthews

New Zealand businesses have been struggling to fill technology roles. Despite a challenging economic environment for the last three years, the number of skilled IT workers in New Zealand is still a concern says Paul Matthews, CEO of the Institute of IT Professionals.

In his role as head of the IT industry professional body, Matthews often talks with technology employers about their requirements. He says that transformation projects in government and new products and technology support in the private sector has been driving IT recruitment - but many employers are still struggling to find senior level IT staff.

Matthews says that despite a slow down in hiring between 2008 and 2011, there has always been an underlying demand for IT workers. Only now is that demand returning to pre-GFC levels, he says.

Business analysts and information architects are in particular demand, with IT employers struggling across the board to fill senior positions with the skills to support new projects and technologies.

Although the number of university graduates with technology degrees has been in decline, Matthews says employers have less difficulty filling graduate-level roles.

"There's a dichotomy in this shortage. We're starting to see a huge barrier with graduates trying to find work," says Matthews.

"Once they have two or three years experience they're off flying, but the difficulty is the formative years before that point."

Companies are increasingly recognising the need to invest in junior level staff and train them up to fill more senior roles, says Matthews.

Big hitters like Orion Health, which hired 150 new staff globally in the last year, are investing more in graduate programmes and initiatives to encourage more students to take up IT courses in university.

Both the need for experienced workers and up skilling of recent graduates could be addressed by fast-tracking current staff along their career paths, says Matthews.

"If you ask most software developers in the industry where they see themselves in the future, they'll reply they're happy where they are," says Matthews.

"We're not moving people up fast enough. Employers need to incentivise moving these skilled developers and technicians up the ladder. Retrain them to fill these roles.

"Expose these developers to these new areas and encourage progression in their careers."

Matthews says there is a major risk of successful New Zealand companies basing their development teams overseas if senior level talent in New Zealand cannot be sourced, which would have a flow on effect in the future of limiting opportunities in New Zealand.

"There's a risk if we don't address the supply side of things they'll start developing those teams overseas, and they won't be likely to bring them back," says Matthews.

"There comes a point where they have to. They have all this potential growth which is only limited by how fast they can grow, and that requires the right staff."

*This article is part of a Computerworld series on ICT careers. See also New ICT projects continue to boost staff demand, What are large ICT employers looking for? and Game studios bolster industry.

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