As Australian information technology professionals continue to struggle with a stagnant job market, recruiting firms are beginning to develop a picture of the IT labour market for 2003. Recruitment consultancy Robert Walters group has predicted growing demand for IT workers with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) application skills and continuing high demand for network specialists. The recruiting specialist has tipped that those with experience in PeopleSoft's suite of ERP applications, those of its recently acquired subsidiary, Vantive, and Oracle 11i would be well placed to secure work. PeopleSoft services director, Steven Bool, claimed that a recent surge in sales is behind a shortage of staff skilled with its products, placing the company under pressure to produce human resources to fulfil its clients' needs. Bool said that if it was unable to fulfil its human resources needs locally it would look to the global IT labour market for headcount. In the networking sector Robert Walters is forecasting robust demand for Windows XP support and implementation skills, and consultant-level security expertise. For those in the coding field, Web development is E.L. Consult managing director Grant Montgomery's safe bet. He said Web developers would be in demand throughout 2003, setting aside special mention for Java, Flash, database and Asian character programming experience. According to Montgomery, the increase in demand is tied to accelerated growth in the number of enterprises conducting business functions on the Web. "The direction is going to be on using the Web for more applications with business cases...instead of as a low level brochure Net," said Montgomery. "Because [Web development] merges creativ[ity] and technology it's never been particularly well supplied," said Montgomery. The best employment hunting season for project managers may be as late as April and May 2003. Eddie Liu, director of information technology at Robert Walters, said tech employers may not begin hiring project managers until late Q1 to fill places in projects earmarked for Q2. There appears to be few positive signs for employment growth in the telecommunications sector, where prospects of new job creation remain poor and appear set to stay that way until 2005. Montgomery said the flight of multinational telecommunications operations meant that any prospects for significant job growth is dependent on Telstra, Optus and a handful of smaller telcos. According to Robert Walters few have any plans to make significant investment in new projects in 2003. "Telco is looking quite flat for this year. There's only a few projects going ahead but they are component-based projects for some major GPRS work and UTMS work for 2005," said Liu. Montgomery concurred with Liu saying that there is an over-supply of telecommunications labour and that Telstra, Optus and other smaller players would this year be able to meet their labour requirements without taking on new workers. Other notable predictions in the tech-sector include a marked rise in contract-based employment. Liu said 30 to 70 percent more companies have opted for contract arrangements to curb staff latency. In stand out cases, said Liu, some companies would increase contracting by 240 percent. E.L. Consult plans to release its IT Job index for 2003 by the end of the week after experiencing delays collating employment data.