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As thousands of out-of work bankers get on their bikes this week, a survey carried out by IT recruitment consultancy Hays Information Technology has revealed another reason for the IT industry to be cheerful in the face of the growing downturn.
The report claimed that more than a quarter of IT management teams were currently recruiting, and 60% expected to add to their line-ups
during the coming 12 months.
Earlier this month MicroScope reported on a new shortlist drawn up by the Home Office detailing sectors suffering a skills shortage, which could be met by economic migrants.
The IT industry was left off the list, which consultancy body the Professional Contractors Group took as a welcome sign the UK was not suffering an IT skills crisis.
What skills crisis?
Industry opinion seems to be divided on the subject of a skills crisis. However, evidence from channel sources suggests the recruitment market
is very active right now, particularly in hot sectors such as VoIP and
Peter Titmus, managing director of networking integrator Networks First, said the cost of recruiting was rising.
“Specialists in Mitel or Avaya are asking for as much as high-level Cisco experts,” Titmus said.
“People are really cherry-picking the best; when people do recruit they want seasoned experts, not someone who’s just been on the training course. We’re rejecting a lot straight through the door.”
Bell Micro director of services and security Antony Young agreed IT recruitment was “buoyant” and reiterated the view that emerging technologies were areas where he saw the most activity, but added they would also experience skills shortages.
“If you want a specialist in a new and growing area you will have difficulty finding someone in the right place and you’ll have to pay top dollar to keep them,” he said.
He added that in this situation you might have to recruit from the vendor you want to specialise in. However, it can be tough to tempt someone into distribution or resale from a plum role at a niche start-up that is hitting the big time.
Young called for vendors to take a greater role in growing skills in the UK, singling out Cisco as a success story that was “fantastic at seeding talent in universities”.
Others suggested the rise of outsourcing and managed services among SMEs might point to a future job drought.
“There’s a big argument to suggest you don’t need an IT department any more,” said IT procurement specialist Colin Symington.
“There’s an excess of labour in the end-user market, because for every 10 SMEs that boot out their IT admin for managed services, only two or three will be hired by a reseller,” he continued.
Young, who said he had seen CVs from several such people recently, disagreed, suggesting that former IT admins often found the transition into reseller roles did not suit them.
“They can’t make the transition to being a customer-facing consultant; from a soft-skills point of view it can be a challenge for them,” he said.
Young believes a likelier and more personally satisfying outcome would be to join a large integrator in a contracting role, being parachuted into a datacentre to troubleshoot a network problem, for example.
In the enterprise sector, demand for IT gurus could remain strong because outsourcing tech functions to LARs or SIs isn’t always an option in areas like financial trading. This means some companies will always need to get more bums on seats.
“There’s still an upside to being specialised as a techie,” Symington said. “Lots of companies are investing in procurement because when the credit crunch is on, the right expertise can save them a fortune.”