Feature

Skills on the rise as market shifts

Nicholas Enticknap analyses the latest SSL/Computer Weekly salary survey to discover the roles, skills and areas that offer the richest pickings.

The outsourcing of IT jobs overseas appears to be having a major impact on the employment market in the UK.

Jobs for lower-paid professionals such as helpdesk and operations staff are in decline, with many companies finding it cheaper to outsource day-to-day operations to the developing world in India and the Far East. Meanwhile, there are plenty of options for people with proven management records and with the skills that are most in demand.

Jobs on offer to communications managers rose by 50% on the web in the last quarter, compared to a year ago. Jobs for project managers were also up by more than 30%, while there was a significant increase in demand for analysts with both systems and business-oriented experience.

"We are finding that the number of higher-end jobs is increasing, and that is why jobs for higher-capacity people like software engineers are up - they really add value," says Paul Smith, Harvey Nash Group marketing director. Jobs for software engineers advertised on the web rose by 30%.

The rise in demand for skilled staff and fall in demand for low-level professionals are cancelling each other out. According to Smith, "We do have a glass that is full, and you cannot get any more into it. There is a finite number of IT people in the UK, and the education system produces a limited number each year. The demand is far greater than that, so there will always be full IT employment in the UK, in terms of volume, though the type of demand will change."

This point is illustrated by the latest SSL/Computer Weekly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends, which continues to show a stable overall market.

The total number of permanent IT jobs advertised in the second quarter was fractionally down on the first quarter, but fractionally up on the second quarter of 2005. There has been no significant change in the jobs volume for nearly two years now.

This overall stability masks considerable regional and industry sector variation. The biggest increase in jobs last time was in the Midlands. That is where manufacturing is concentrated, so it is no surprise to find that there was a substantial increase in this sector's advertising too.

Wales and the West also enjoyed a boom quarter. In contrast, the job market in the north of England was depressed, with both east and west showing a fall from a year ago.

IT users increased their web-based advertising significantly more than the IT industry, where jobs rose only 5%. The manufacturing and media sectors saw recruitment activity rise by 30%, while the finance and retail sectors also showed increases of more than 20%.

Permanent staff did better than freelancers this time. The number of contract jobs advertised has declined by 8% compared to a year ago. This is the first year-on-year quarterly fall for 13 quarters, since the beginning of 2003. If history is any guide, hard times are looming for self-employed professionals.

Demand for contract consultants was down by 30%. In this market also, low-paid staff suffered badly, with ads for operations staff down 30%, and for PC support staff down by more than 25%.

Software engineering and web specialists were the only categories to see a rise in the last quarter.

The contract jobs that were on offer were paying well, however. Average rates were up by 5%, compared to 2.5% a year ago. Software engineers profited greatly, with average salaries up 13%, and up 23% for senior staff. Training officers did even better, with rates up by nearly 25%.

Offsetting the decline in freelance jobs was a substantial rise in the number of jobs advertised in print. The total number of jobs on offer in the second quarter was up nearly 50% on a year ago.

Advertising in print is normally aimed at the higher end of the market, illustrating again there are plenty of opportunities for professionals with valuable skills.

The public sector is usually the heaviest print advertiser, but not this time: demand from the government was down by 20% compared to a year ago.

Software houses, which have preferred the web for recruiting over the past few years, have increased their recruitment in print media by a similar amount.

These two changes probably explain why rates of pay are up, as the public sector tends to pay the least and the software houses the most.

The finance houses also pay well, and they were the biggest movers here, with advertising running at close to four times the level of a year ago. It is, therefore, a surprise to find that print-based advertising in inner London has risen by only a small amount.

Outer London sites have, in contrast, trebled their advertising since a year ago. The Midlands also did well here, with jobs in both the east and the west nearly doubling.

Demand for project managers was up two-and-a-half times. The print media also saw a similar surge in demand for developers, and a trebling of demand for programmers. Interest in software engineers and database specialists was running at more than double last year's level.

The average salary rise across all job types was just 1.5% on a year ago, the lowest rise for a year and a half. This is well under the government's preferred CPI inflation figure for May of 2.5%, and even further under the old headline RPI figure of 3.3%.

The biggest pay increase this time was offered to IT managers, who were set to earn just under £60,000 on average, 15% up on a year ago.

Thirteen job categories offered less than a year ago, including analyst/programmers, who saw salaries on offer drop by 5%. Helpdesk and operations staff salaries were down by 3%.

Among the skills on offer it is the progress of the C# programming language which catches the eye. Demand rose by 37%, and this skill has now leapfrogged .net to take eighth place in the skills league table.

Javascript saw exactly the same 37% increase in demand, and is 11 places higher than a year ago at 22nd.

Nineteen of the top 25 skills saw demand increase relative to a year ago. The six that lost out included those success stories of the 1990s, Unix and Oracle, as well as TCP/IP, SAP and Exchange; the sixth, surprisingly, was Windows XP.

Focus has entered the top 25 for the first time. It replaces Windows 2000, which has plummeted 10 places to 31st. Its predecessor, the Windows NT operating system, has fallen 18 places to 37th.

This decline in demand for Windows and Unix, together with the rise in demand for skills such as C#, .net and Java, signal that advertisers are looking to operating system skills less than ever before.

How Average Salaries Have Changed

Job title

Average salary Q206

Average salary Q205

change

Management consultant

£68,688

£63,633

+8%

IT manager

£59,805

£51,828

+15%

Project manager

£50,326

£48,944

+3%

Systems developer

£39,245

£39,037

+1%

Database administrator

£37,889

£36,916

+3%

Business analyst

£37,308

£36,782

+1%

Systems administrator

£34,981

£34,287

+2%

Systems analyst

£34,654

£33,814

+2%

Programmer

£28,186

£29,018

-3%

Operator

£24,485

£25,295

-3%

PC support

£22,186

£20,785

+7%

All jobs positions

 

 

+1%

Demand By Sector

Change for jobs on the web Q2 06 against Q2 05

Electronics/comms

+11%

Software houses

+5%

Banking/finance

+21%

Distribution/retail

+25%

Media/publishing

+34%

Manufacturing

+33%

Public sector

+0%

All jobs

+2%

  Demand By Job Category

Change for jobs on web Q2 06 against Q2 05

Management

-5%

Systems

+15%

Development

+15%

Programmers

+24%

PC support

-13%

Technical support

-11%

Software engineering

+34%

Database

+12%

Networking

+15%

Operations

-20%

Web specialists

+18%

All jobs

+2%

  Demand By Region

Change for jobs on web Q2 06 against Q2 05

Inner London

+6%

Outer London

+12%

Southern England

+4%

West & Wales

+15%

East Midlands

+9%

West Midlands

+20%

North West

-1%

North East

-10%

Scotland & Northern Ireland

+11%

All jobs

+2%

  Demand By Skill

Q2 06

 

Q2 05

 

Skill

 

% change

 

1

1

SQL

+5%

2

3

C

+22%

3

2

Office

+11%

4

4

Java

+15%

5

7

C++

+8%

6

5

Unix

-3%

7

6

Oracle

-10%

8

11

C#

+37%

9

10

.net

+16%

10

8

SQL Server

+3%

11

9

Visual Basic

+1%

12

14

ASP

+28%

13

11

XML

+6%

14

13

TCP/IP

-3%

15

15

J2EE

+2%

16

18

Linux

+28%

17

17

HTML

+19%

18

16

SAP

-1%

19

23

Cisco

+28%

20

20

Exchange

-8%

21

25

Embedded

+19%

22

33

Javascript

+37%

23

26

Object oriented

+11%

24

22

Windows XP

-13%

25

29

Focus

+8%

 

 

All jobs

+2%

  How the survey is conducted

This article is based on information from the SSL/Computer Weekly Quarterly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends.

The survey analyses ads for IT professionals on the web, in the trade press, and the quality national dailies and Sundays. It is intended primarily for recruitment agencies and CIOs with a substantial recruitment requirement.

The posts are broken down into 55 categories, which include details of the number of posts advertised and the average and median national salaries offered for the past five quarters.

The survey provides further analyses within each job category by platform type, industry sector and regional location. It also gives a breakdown of the technical skills most in demand.

The survey costs £250 per issue or £350 for an annual subscription. This covers four issues, and includes a free software program, which allows selection of combinations of region, industry and software skills for specified job types. You can order it at:

www.salaryservices.co.uk

 

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This was first published in August 2006

 

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