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Good times roll for Aust IT jobs, salaries

Good times are underway for Australia's information technology workforce, with advertised information and communications technology (ICT) positions due to grow sharply for the first six months of the year.But if you're a hardware engineer, you may want to re-skill as a security specialist.

Good times are underway for Australia's information technology workforce, with advertised information and communications technology (ICT) positions due to grow sharply for the first six months of the year.

But if you're a hardware engineer, you may want to re-skill as a security specialist.

According to the IT Skills Hub, a not-for-profit organisation formed through the cooperation of the federal government and the information technology and telecommunications (IT&T) industry, the number of advertised ICT jobs is due to grow by 25 percent for the first six months of the year over the last six months of 2003.

The Skills Hub conducted the Market Monitor survey in cooperation with Gottliebsen Research.

Areas of highest growth are security and risk management, open source software, systems integration and project management, IT Skills Hub executives said.

The anticipated increase comes on top of an 18.7 percent rise in the number of advertised positions in the last half of 2003 over the first half.

Brian Donovan, the chief executive officer of the IT Skills Hub, told ZDNet Australia   that while the improvement did not signal a return to the days of the dot-com boom, it was "certainly some reason for optimism".

The Skills Hub is also forecasting an average increase in salaries for ICT workers of 5 percent for the first six months of the year, up from 3.1 percent for the last six months of 2003. The average salary is, the Skills Hub claims, expected to reach about AU$75,000.

For contractors, hourly rates are forecast to rise by more than 3 percent, after a 1.2 percent rise in the last six months of 2003 to an average of AU$43 per hour. Prior to that, rates had slipped over the last 24 months.

Sales and marketing was the best paid ICT job family classification for the last six months of 2003, with salaries averaging AU$116,745.

Donovan said security continued to be a high priority, "both in terms of position and skill demand.

"The position of security specialist recorded one of the highest percentage increases [for the final six months of 2003] of 67 percent and one of the highest percentage increases in salary of 10.6 percent".

He attributed the growth to "re-prioritising" by organisations of their security responsibilities, driven by computer virus attacks, recent global health alerts such as SARS and instability steming from the Middle East conflict.

Information technology risk management
"We are also pleased to see a general focus on information technology risk management, which we have advocated for a year now following a survey of demand and supply for these essential skills," Donovan said.

"This will force a more urgent response from the education sector to both address the need for information technology risk management and to include security as a mandatory subject in information technology qualifications".

He said education and training sectors had to get their planning right in ICT.

"We do not want to continue the peaks and troughs of skills oversupply and shortages and therefore need to align education and planning and business planning and industry projections to get the right mix of what skills are to be needed and when - including the developments in e-risk management and e-security," the chief executive said. "It is an indictment of us that security is still an elective subject in most IT undergraduate degree programs".

Hardware engineers on the way out?
Donovan said the position of hardware engineer was "showing indications that many of its core skills were being absorbed into other roles".

The position of hardware engineer recorded the largest percentage decrease of all ICT positions for the last six months of 2003, he said. This was at a time when 73 percent of all ICT positions recorded an increase in job advertisement numbers.

Donovan also said the role of generalist technical support was "absorbing many of the skills that belong to the traditional specialised support-related positions such as operator, database administrator, network administrator and systems administrator.

"However, all these positions still performed strongly in their own right and I would see the eventual amalgamation of these positions, but much further down the track.

"You will find, in small to medium organisations, especially with employees around the 100 mark, one person would be required to perform all the attributes of these roles".

The survey found that NSW was the dominant player in Australia's ICT marketplace, with 45.8 percent of all advertised ICT jobs for the last six months of last year, followed by Victoria with 26.7 percent, the ACT with 9.2 percent and Queensland with nine percent.

Donovan also noted that one-third of all ICT job advertisement content included a reference to interpersonal skills.