Market for ICT contractors still expanding

Contracting is on the rise, fuelled by government initiatives and driven by money

ICT contracting is on the rise, say local recruitment firms, partly fuelled by a lack of skilled staff in the market and partly by government initiatives.

Harry Hall, contract recruitment specialist at QID Recruitment says that contracting has been on the rise for a number of years mainly because of government projects, particularly those based around collaboration and information sharing in various government departments.

“IT contracting [in Wellington] is an expanding market and in the future I can only see it expanding further,” he says.

“A number of government departments have got projects on the table [that] are about to commence in the New Year.”

The market in Auckland has been fairly steady for the last couple of years, he says.

The main driver for contractors is without doubt money, says Hall.

“If you are confident in your skill-set you can develop a career out of contracting,” he says. “We have a large number of career contractors on our books, and [many of them] are quite happy to work nine or ten months a year [and then] have two months off, and they come out on top,” says Hall.

The benefits of working as a contractor include tax advantages, variety of work and depth of experience from moving between various organisations and roles, he says.

For employers the main advantage is the availability of highly skilled staff on demand, or in an emergency, says Hall.

The main challenge is retention of intellectual property. The ideal solution is a combination of using contractors when necessary and up-skilling permanent staff, according to Hall.

Around 90% of the contractors in QID Recruitment’s pool are “seasoned professionals”, says Hall. But there are times when contracting suits younger, less experienced people.

Wellington-based consultant Steve Rush decided to leave his permanent job as a project manager in the telecommunications industry for the lucrative contracting market. Rush’s specialisation is in IT project management and business intelligence.

He prefers contracting because it pays better than a permanent job, he says, but also because of the satisfaction of working for your own brand and getting an evaluation of your own work.

The challenges, on the other hand, include setting up your own business, and being completely dependant on your own ability.

“There are no safety nets,” he says. “You are judged on your ability to deliver in the role and that will influence whether you get the next contract or not. So, there is no let-up whatsoever from the pressure to live up [to the] reputation you have.”

Rush has been contracting for six weeks and plans to stay in the contracting business for at least a couple of years.

Recruitment firm absoluteIT launched its global Go Contracting service in August. Since then there has been a significant rise in the number of contractors that work for the firm, says Grant Burley, director of absoluteIT. The service is designed to help people that want to do contract work but don’t want the hassle of running their own business. AbsoluteIT takes care of all the administration, including for example invoicing, accounting, tax calculation and expenses, and the contractor pays for these services only when he or she is working, says Burley. The company has just launched Go Contracting in its London office, too, he says.

Unemployment levels are extremely low in the ICT job market, says Richard Gladwell, director of ITEC Contracting. Companies are either holding out, trying to get hold of permanent staff, or taking the more immediate option of employing a contractor, he says.

“I don’t know if I would say that the [market for contractors] is the best it’s ever been, but it’s not far off it,” says Gladwell.

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