IT employers remain optimistic: survey

Early-stage project skills are in demand, recruiter says

New Zealand employers are at their most optimistic since mid-2008 when it comes to hiring intentions, according to Hudson’s employment expectations survey for January to March 2011.

And IT is the most optimistic sector, according to the recruitment firm, recording a net positive effect of 52.3 percent for the period.

The “net effect” is calculated by taking the percentage of employers surveyed that expect to decrease staffing levels during the survey period, and subtracting the percentage who don’t intend to hire staff.

The result is 3.7 percentage points above the one recorded in the previous survey, for the last quarter of 2010. Hudson, ICT recruitment solutions director John Coventry says this reflects a growing need for staff as project activity ramps up.

“We are at the beginning of the project development lifecycle and there is high demand for a number of skill sets associated with project initiation,” Coventry says.

“Project managers, business analysts, solution architects, those skills that are needed at the development part of the project lifecycle are all in demand.”

As well as project initiation skills, project development skills, which come at the next stage of a project, are also in short supply, with .Net and Java developers in constant demand he says.

With projects that were put on hold or not approved due to budget reasons during the recession now getting the go-ahead, the project cycle is at the early stage, and when it is further along, demand for those with skills relevant to the later stage of the cycle, such as testers, will increase.

“We haven’t seen a major demand for testers yet, but that will follow.”

A key trend in the latest survey is a shift back towards using permanent staff, rather than contractors.

Coventry says many organisations that cut back on staff during the recession and used contractors as a short-term measure, are now more confident and are hiring full-time staff again.

Many organisations had restrictions on their headcount during the recession and had to use contractors to “get across the line”, but now there is budget to hire permanent staff, Coventry says.

Hudson is noting more IT vacancies at government organisations, reflecting this trend, he says.

This, in turn, is fuelling demand at companies that do large amounts of government contract work.

The commentary accompanying the latest Hudson report notes that in the Lower North Island, “the IT industry remains by far the most confident in the region, with a net 40 percent of IT employers reporting plans to increase their permanent staff numbers over the coming three months.

While that is down 14.6 percentage points on the previous survey, “there is currently still hiring activity in the public sector, some of which has been stimulated by such projects as the new technology shared services team set up within the Department of Internal Affairs.”

In the Upper North Island, “demand for IT professionals remains strong, with a net 67.5 percent of employers indicating an intention to increase their permanent staff levels over the coming three months.

“Up 9.9 percentage points, this represents the third consecutive quarter of rising sentiment for the sector,” he says.

Hiring intentions in the South Island’s IT sector rose 11.2 percentage points.

The survey also found rising employment sentiment in telecommunications, which is counted as a separate sector from IT in the survey. A net 36.4 percent of employers in the telecommunications sector indicated an intention to take on more staff, up 18.3 percentage points from the last survey.

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