There are clear signs that Australian businesses are not faring too well. Tax receipts are down, and business confidence is slipping. The latest quarterly business survey from the National Australia Bank (NAB) reckons that business confidence remains below average, with low investment, subdued demand, and minimal forward ordering of stock. Few companies, it seems, are preparing for a period of growth.
This pessimism is reflected in job numbers. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows an 18 percent drop in job vacancies across all industries (February 2012 to February 2013), including a one-third drop in mining jobs.
Other ABS data (Labour Force, Australia: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Families, June 2012) shows how hard this is hitting the much-vaunted "working families" of Australia. In June 2008, 1.6 percent of household heads were unemployed. The global financial crisis (GFC) saw that figure rise sharply to 2.7 percent a year later, but, by June 2011, it was back down to 1.7 percent. Now, the numbers are slowly gliding upwards — 1.9 percent in June 2012. Small percentages, perhaps, but it translates to 102,200 family households where the main breadwinner wants to work, but is not bringing home any dough (apologies for the metaphor).
The good news is that the information, media, and telecoms sector seems to be faring better than most. The ABS Job Vacancies report — based on a survey of 5,000 employers — shows an 11 percent growth in job vacancies, the opposite of the national trend.
Of course, many IT jobs will be in other industry verticals, and subject to their own recruitment restraints. For example, across the board, job vacancies in the public sector are down by 34 percent over the last year. You can expect that IT will be hit as hard, if not harder, than other job types.
Figures of online vacancies from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations show that vacancies for IT managers, software/application programmes, and IT business and systems analysts have fallen by a quarter in the last year — but that's in line with all online vacancies. Jobs for database administrators and support technicians have fallen farther — by about one third. A word of caution on these figures, though: They have been falling significantly for some time, and could reflect a trend away from advertising on main job sites as much as a reduced availability of new jobs.
Candle Recruitment reckons the IT sector has been hit harder than most, claiming an oversupply of 300 professionals, but a shortage of 100 IT managers. Folks in NSW might benefit from the state government's new IT strategy implementation, whilst a slowdown in mining has had an impact on IT hiring in Western Australia. Recruiting expert Hays pointed to particular demand for developers (principally ASP, .Net, and SharePoint), Microsoft Business Intelligence expertise, ERP project and program managers, and Citrix and VMware professionals.
Wherever you are, Candle's executive general manager, Linda Trevor, has repeated the mantra that, these days, IT people need to understand business as much as technology. "IT staff who can combine the technical side of their work with the ability to effectively communicate with business clients are invaluable," she said.
That really gets down to relevancy. Nick Deligiannis, managing director at Hays, said "only those resumes that detail a track record of the experience being sought, as well as the right qualifications, will make the short list".
That's all well and good, but meanwhile, there are thousands of unemployed IT professionals with a strong track record, but skills that are a little out of date. All they need is the chance to adapt, but without the perfect match of experience, they are destined to a lifetime of dispatching their resumes.
What are employers doing for those people? In the olden days, we used to train them. Isn't that fashionable anymore?