The Year Ahead: Skills trends for 2003

.Net development has joined the list of core technical skills demanded by employers for 2003. Meanwhile many companies now require developers with client-facing skills

One year ago, the world was still reeling from the raw impact of 11 September and security on every level was a priority. In terms of IT skills, disaster recovery and storage featured prominently, although the chief executive of EMC criticised other storage companies for exploiting the terrorist attacks. Twelve months later the economic downturn in the tech sector continued with talk of recovery being a distant prospect. Job losses have continued on a large scale especially in the telecom sector. WorldCom, Cable & Wireless, Marconi, Siemens, Lucent, Nortel and Orange all cut staff heavily in 2002. The telecoms sector has become so out of favour even the annual show 'Networks Telecom' has been rebranded as 'Networks for Business'. Modest upturn
Research by e-skills in their quarterly bulletin shows the UK IT market experiencing a modest upturn during the final months of 2002, with anticipated growth in 2003 of 4 percent. A comparison to a year ago points to a decrease of 127,000 -- or 12 percent -- of people employed in ICT as whole. Contractors
IT contractors in 2002 experienced drops in hourly rates of pay in four out of 49 job roles monitored by the Computer Weekly/SSP Quarterly Survey. The most significant decreases were for Webmasters, and in content creation where rates dropped by 34 percent. System administrator contractors had their rates cut by 20 percent, as did PC helpdesk workers. Contractors fortunate enough to have hourly rates increases were technical authors with increases of 8 percent; senior database admin/analysts up 5 percent; and network/comms analyst/engineers up by 3 percent. Another area with a predicted upswing is in the public sector, which, despite a reputation for poor pay and conditions, may be contractors' best bet for steady work. Core skills
The 'core' technical IT skills, according to e-skills, demanded by employers for both contractors and permanent staff are unchanged from last year except for the addition of .Net this year:
  • SQL
  • C++
  • Unix
  • Oracle
  • C
  • Windows NT
  • Java
  • Visual Basic
  • MS Office
  • .Net
Contract staff with SAP and Windows 2000 skills were consistently in demand in 2002 and on the permanent side SQL Server and TCP/IP skills were in demand, although TCP/IP as a percentage of all permanent advertisements decreased in each quarter over the last year. Small increases in demand have been tracked over the last two quarters in the following skills areas: Freehand, OLAP, Smalltalk, BPCS and EPOS for permanent positions, with JDBC, JSP EPOS, VPN, VBA and Switches had increased demand for contractors. .Net
Significantly, .Net skills are appearing on the must-have list alongside Java and XML. Hull University is developing -- with Microsoft -- the first .Net Post Graduate Degree course for Computer Science in the UK, beginning in September 2003. As part of the Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance, universities create a "lending library" where students can legally access copies of the products for home use. Dr David Grey, a lecturer at Hull University said he believes that providing students with the inner workings of the .Net Framework will give them a significant edge in the skills and expertise needed to excel in the Web services area. Soft skills
There is a trend for firms to hire more business-aware staff with customer focus, client-facing and interpersonal abilities but also in more technologically specific areas such as:
  • Project Management
  • Security
  • XML
  • EAI
  • .Net
  • C#
Training and Certification
2003 will be an undeniably tough year for all IT employees within the tech sector. As always the candidates with the right skills set, training, certification and experience will do best.

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