Firms open wallets for web, e-commerce skills

Last year, Java was the bee's knees. Computerworld reported that in the world of IT "Java was the place to be". Demand for such people was reflected in salaries. Senior Java developers could earn $85,000 per annum.

Last year, Java was the bee’s knees. Computerworld reported that in the world of IT “Java was the place to be”. Demand for such people was reflected in salaries. Senior Java developers could earn $85,000 per annum.

Other IT jobs can now pay well into six figures, according to salary surveys by HR consultancy Cubiks and other agencies. Internet architects can earn $120,000 and e-commerce account managers can rake in a staggering $200,000.

Internet skills hot

Auckland recruiter Barry O’Brien confirms internet-related skills are “extremely hot”.

These include Java, HTML and Microsoft tools such as ASP, VB and IIS (Microsoft internet information server). Skills in SQL Server and NT are sought after, along with the emerging XML language and its XSLT extension. As New Zealand becomes more web-enabled and e-commerce takes off, this will continue to drive the demand for skills in the IT marketplace.

Research company IDC says the number of web users in New Zealand will grow from 1.4 million in 2000 to 2.5 million in 2004. New Zealand spending online, says IDC, is also set to rocket from $2 billion in 2000 to $21 billion in 2004. The B2C market will increase eight-fold during 2000-04 to $4.4 billion and there will be even greater growth in B2B e-marketplaces.

Some firms will move on to the web for the first time. Others will replace their simple brochureware sites to allow e-commerce proper. Skilled staff will be needed as websites get more sophisticated and e-marketplace portals are constructed.

The growth of the open source Linux is also fuelling demand for IT skills, says O’Brien, as companies start to “experiment” in it. “It’s a web-driven market at the moment,” he says.

Ace Computer Training sales manager Mark Bishop says VB and C++ skills are still needed in applications development. “There is a steady demand for experienced and qualified systems engineers, and as Windows 2000 gains more momentum, this will increase.”

Glenn Bratton, a recruiter at Robert Walters, says Cisco qualifications are “hot”, along with ASP and data warehousing.

Ross Turner, the head of recruitment firm Pinnacle, says Cisco’s CCIE (Cisco certified internetwork expert) qualification is outrating Microsoft’s MCSE (Microsoft certified systems engineer) in terms of popularity. He says systems architecture, design and integration skills are also hot. Business analysis and systems analysis skills are also sought-after as firms try to work smarter, he says.

Pavilion Technologies chief Wayne Atwell says his Hamilton-based firm can fill junior positions locally but must search overseas to fill the more senior Java posts. Firms are fighting over trained Java people, who can effectively name their price. “It’s more a case of them interviewing us, to see if they want to work with us,” he says.

Such demand is reflected in pay rates, says Cubiks, increasing an average 9.1% for IT workers shifting jobs. Those not shifting also cashed in pay rises, with rates up 7.4% for webmasters, 9% for programming and 7.3% for database administrators.

Those not faring as well are those with skills in older technologies.

Bratton says these include mainframe development skills and Informix DBAs.

ERP skills, like SAP, have lost their shine, though he says there is some resurgence.

Information systems managers, reports Cubiks, saw their pay increase 4.4% over the past year, systems programmers 3.9%, computer operators 3.2% and network consultants 2.6%.

O’Brien says some traditional software engineers and programmers with older skills, such as 3GL database languages are seeing their salaries moving backwards. Fitchew adds systems programmers are even “dying out”.

Future trends

The trends show the same skills being in demand in the next few years, although one consultant — not wanting to be quoted — wondered if there might be an oversupply of web designers and Java people in a year or so.

Turner says that as the US parent companies of New Zealand-based vendors put the heat on their local offshoots, with cuts in staff and a drive to raise to raise profits, systems architects and integrators will remain in demand.

“Anything to do with the technology of data is crucial and will continue to be in demand. Companies are getting much smarter with their web presence,” he says.

The others agree, though Bishop says regardless of what analysts and vendors may believe, no one has a crystal ball.

“However, in New Zealand it is clear that Microsoft is still the dominant player in the server operating systems market, and that is unlikely to change in the short to medium term. Linux has about a 1% installed base, but is worth keeping an eye on,” he says.

“The biggest threat to an IT career is making the wrong decision, however this can be allayed somewhat by maintaining a close watch on the market and simply being aware of what is happening outside your own environment. Seminars, training and industry publications are an excellent start.”

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