The future looks bright for professionals with relational database (RDB) skills, and for those with knowledge of more than one RDB, future employment seems pretty much guaranteed.
Getting the training and experience required for tight-deadline projects can be difficult, however.
Martin Barry of the Doughty Group in Auckland says employers are sometimes willing to train programmers, but most want their projects to be started straight away.
"You'll find retraining with in-house programmers, where a company is moving from, say, a Cobol database to a relational database and wants to retain its own staff."
Barry says the Doughty Group is talking to employers to establish some way of training people in relational database skills to meet the constant demand for them.
"We've been talking to training organisations too, but the problem is funding--who pays for the training in the end?"
Grahame Bilby, director of newly opened Wilson White Associates in Wellington, says that although it is early days for him in the capital, he is seeing a strong demand for relational database skills.
"RDB skills most definitely are very hard to find. There is a skill shortage in the market."
Although universities are training students in RDB environments, Bilby says, many companies will hold out for employees with commercial experience, even if this means a position remains unfilled for a long time.
Bilby says employers appear to be seeking programmers experienced in Oracle, in particular, as well as in Powerbuilder.
"Employers are appreciative of the fact that if someone has Oracle experience those skills can easily be transferred to learn Powerbuilder and they are willing to hire someone on that basis."
All the recruiters spoken to agree that employers are willing to take on a person with proven Oracle skills and let them learn how to program for another environment.
"Some companies will hire an Oracle person for another 4GL project and some won't," says Rowen Greatbatch, a senior consultant at Compuforce, Auckland.
"It depends on the hiring manager and if they have an understanding of the potential of the applicant.
"Some will look at the quality of the individual and their commercial background and train them up," says Greatbatch.
None of the recruitment consultants have seen many multi-RDB skilled programmers.
Bilby says employers are pleased to find someone with experience in more than one RDB language but admits these people are few and far between.
Greatbatch says several big projects make Oracle the most popular RDB by far in Auckland. He says Informix and Progress are also in high demand from software houses.
From a career point of view, the message is clear enough: large projects are creating a continuing demand for relational database skills, with demand outstripping supply.
It is important to be aware of which relational databases are in demand and hone your skills accordingly--and, if you can, become proficient in more than one.