IT jobs look up

Inside the enterprise: Companies are putting IT recruitment top of their lists. This is good news for technology professionals, but not for firms short of skills.

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Workers in IT are the most in demand by employers, and workers in the IT industry are among the most bullish about their career and salary prospects. This good news comes after several years of cost cutting and job losses, which have not spared IT.

The latest monthly employment report, compiled for the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and KPMG by Markit Economics, found that in February, permanent job placements reached a nine-month high. Although this was offset by a fall in the number of temporary posts filled, the number of permanent jobs on offer and unfilled by employers also rose.

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It will be the companies that nurtured and developed IT in the face of recession, and used it as a force for improving the business, that are in the best position today.

It is never solid economics to read too much into one month's figures, but the IT and Communications category has regularly led tables for both job placements and vacancies since the middle of last year. In fact, except for one brief period, demand for IT staff has increased month on month since late 2009.

But a recovery in demand for IT, if that is what the employment data show, is not equally good news for everyone. Skilled IT professionals should see their job security improve, and they may even be able to buck the wider deflationary trend and earn higher wages. For businesses, though, this means rising costs and perhaps, unfilled positions. In turn, efficiency and productivity could suffer.

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The financial crisis, and the economic downturn that followed, put the brakes on IT spending across Europe and the US, and a return to investment has been hesitant, to say the least. But the picture is mixed. Across all industries, employers report skills shortages in key areas of technology.

The Markit study, for example, pointed to shortages in SAP specialists and for project managers, among permanent staff, and for CRM specialists among contractors. Other surveys have pointed to shortages in security specialists, business analysts, and those working in business intelligence and data management. Companies are also finding it increasingly hard to find additional staff for mobility projects, and for social media.

And, although the type of skills in demand are fairly common across the business landscape, the shortages tend to cluster around two types of firms: those that are undergoing business change, and those that have failed to invest in their IT skills base. Organisations facing change, whether it is public sector bodies looking to trim budgets or a commercial firm looking to enter new markets, almost always need to enlist the help of IT to make the change work.

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Other companies have neglected their IT function, and failed to maintain and develop the skills of the people working in it and managing it. Some companies will have turned to outsourcing or offshoring, and others will plan to rely on, or indeed may already be relying on, contractors.

But it will be the companies that nurtured and developed IT in the face of recession, and used it as a force for improving the business, that are in the best position today - and also the ones most likely to attract the best candidates in a newly competitive recruitment market.

Stephen Pritchard is a contributing editor at IT Pro.

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