JobWatch: Election, what election?

Demand for permanent IT staff continues to grow, bucking the expected dip in demand for new staff in the run up to the federal election.
Written by Jeanne-Vida Douglas, Contributor

Demand for permanent IT staff continues to grow, bucking the expected dip in demand for new staff in the run up to the Federal election.

"In the past elections used to slow up the markets as people reflected on the risks and uncertainties of a new government," offered Bob Olivier, CEO of the Olivier Group and author of the monthly Olivier Index reports. "Now we are seeing a skills shortage so severe that the employment market is impacting on the political campaign, rather than the other way around," Olivier said.

Online ads for IT jobs increased by 2.29 percent in October, bringing the 12-month growth to 37.26 percent, while demand for jobs overall increased 4.31 percent to a whopping 50.07 percent over the last 12 months.

Within the IT sector, demand for staff with Web-design, multimedia and graphics again grew strongly, followed by software developers, management and sales staff and then people with experience in infrastructure and networking.

It's really only the support areas that are not doing so well at the moment," Olivier said. "In percentage terms the greatest growth is coming from WA, but IT has been a solid performance across all the states, there's still enormous need for IT staff everywhere."

Patrick March, national practice leader for IT&T at recruitment company Hudson, concurs with Olivier's findings, saying demand for IT skills is strong and growing across the country.

"There is no one state dominating the market -- what we are seeing is a strong push for staff nationwide," March said. "We're seeing demand for skills associated with business intelligence, security and infrastructure, and there is a major demand for project managers, with salaries peaking at the moment because there's a lot of major project work going on around the country."

Ben Cass, general manager for Link Recruitment agreed, describing the current market as the best he's ever seen for candidates.

"Over the last three months there's been a strong trend of contractors going for permanent roles, and an increase in the number of permanent positions being advertised," Cass said. "Business intelligence and customer relationship management are the two areas where people are seeking to maximise their return on investment so there is a big demand for people with skills in these areas."

Like March and Olivier, Cass also recognises the areas of infrastructure and software development as hot markets, and says demand for project managers has appeared insatiable throughout 2007.

Part of the challenge, according to the recruiters is that project manager positions are often targeted at those with experience in previous project management roles, and as such it has been hard to find experienced staff to match the sudden spike in demand.

While the best qualification for project management remains past experience, March and Cass suggest would-be candidates begin by familiarising themselves with some project management methodologies, such as Prince 2 or ITIL.

"As well as the certification, the capacity to manage people and to operate with a commercial mindset are the two other crucial elements to project management," offered Cass. "You need to get yourself involved in small teams, of existing projects, and get some hands-on experience because the certification alone won't do."

However, Neville Turbit, managing director of project support firm, Project Perfect warns IT professionals to clarify why they want to become involved in project management in the first place.

From a developer or a network administration perspective, project management seems like a step towards IT management generally, but technical people are not necessarily great at managing people," Turbit said. "There was a trend a couple of years ago, if you were going for a project management role you had to have done a very similar project in the past, but now if you've got someone who's been there done that, you might ask them to take over the technical role rather than the management side of the operation."

Nonetheless he suggests a number of skills and certifications such as the PMP certificate offered through the project managers institute, and Prince 2 certification as a good way to signal interest in the field.

"If it's what you want to do you need to look for opportunities to work on small projects whenever possible," Turbit said. "The project administrator, or some kind of support role is often a good stepping stone on the way."

Editorial standards