Clarius reports IT slump for 2013, growth for 2014

Australia's IT market has seen a huge slowdown this year, with a surplus of 1,800 IT workers in the country but a growth forecast for the coming year.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The October Clarius Skills Indicator (PDF) has stated that while IT services were in demand last year, this year there is quite a surplus of workers, with a slump in IT investment from both government and business.

Released on Tuesday morning, the Clarius Skills Indicator (formerly called the Clarius Skills Index) is a quarterly report that tracks demand for a variety of job skills and forecasts demand for the coming year. Deriving its conclusions via data sourced from the Commonwealth Department of Employment and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, last year, the Clarius Index reported a shortage of over 1,100 IT professionals; this year, the same sector is reportedly flooded.

As first divulged in the May 2013 Clarius Skills Indicator (PDF), due to diminishing investment in IT systems and staff by both the private and public sectors, the IT market value has declined considerably this year, causing the surplus of 200 IT managers now in Australia.

In regards to IT professionals, there is an even greater surplus, with 1,600 more job seekers than there are jobs. While this was also caused by the lack of IT investment by businesses and government, the increasing trend for IT workers to fulfil multi-skilling demands contributed as well. Where there used to be separate jobs for systems architects, business analysts, and project managers, for instance, they have been replaced by one person doing several or all of these tasks.

"During 2013, there's been an increased appetite by employers to have multi-skilled and multitasking staff. This is a step away from the traditional career development path of IT professionals who traditionally stick to the one craft," said Kym Quick, CEO of the Clarius Group and IT recruitment services supplier and Clarius partner Candle.

However, growth is being predicted for 2014, with much "catch-up work" needing to be completed on the projects that were deferred during the slump in 2013.

In the Australian Capital Territory, the hiring freeze that has occured in several federal government departments after the new Abbott Coalition government was elected last month should end by mid February, with specialists to be hired in the fields of security, SAP, infrastructure, PL/SQL, and Oracle. In New South Wales, it is forecast that demand next year will be for IT contractors, project managers, and systems architects in the insurance industry.

Healthcare has been hiring the greatest number of IT workers in Queensland, with the most valuable skill sets being SAP, PHP, help desk, and web design. Increased offshoring has resulted in an excess of workers in that state, although the gas and mining industries will likely require new specialists for management, consulting, and cloud within the next year.

In South Australia, Java developers and testers, business analysts, and help desk workers will be sought after in the fields of healthcare and education, as well as banking, mining, and utilities; in Victoria, project managers and again business analysts will be in demand in finance and health; and in Western Australia, CIOs are expected to spend more in 2014, with new projects resulting in a need for help desk and network administrator workers in the back end, as well as .Net and SharePoint developers, infosec experts, and enterprise security specialists.

Across the Tasman in New Zealand, the IT roles in highest demand are web developers, business analysts, solutions architects, .Net developers, and testers. In the year ahead, it is expected that workers skilled in infrastructure as a service and software as a service will be needed.

The October Clarius Skills Indicator also found that rather than New Zealanders leaving home to seek IT work in Australia, as has been traditional in the past, the reverse is now occurring, with more Australians looking for jobs in NZ.

The IT job skills split in NZ.
Image: Clarius Group

Candle is concerned that IT workers in Australia are focused solely on "the trendy side of IT", including developing apps and websites, rather than on fundamental and persistently necessary skills such as security. Quick said that this will result in a smaller number of technically skilled workers once the forecast growth surge occurs in 2014, especially with recent graduates who are interested mainly in mobile technology.

"Security is a growing issue for business, government, and individuals. And because of the lag time between getting students to focus on these skills, complete courses, and be work ready, there's an urgent need at all levels to encourage and promote these career opportunities," Quick said on Tuesday.

"We slumped quickly in 2013, and we expect that to reverse equally as quickly as business opens its chequebook for business as usual and new projects, and that's going to prove extremely challenging for the market, particularly in back-end and security areas."

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