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Job demand cools but Java's still hot

Ross Bentley


Ross Bentley and Bill Goodwin

Demand for skilled IT professionals has fallen to its lowest level since 1995, killing hopes of any quick recovery in the jobs market.

The number of IT jobs advertised in the second quarter this year has fallen to little over 25,000, down by almost half from the same time last year.

The downturn, the sixth consecutive quarterly fall in recruitment activity, highlights growing pressure on IT departments to invest in cost cutting projects.

But the figures, revealed exclusively in the latest Computer Weekly/SSP salary trends survey, mask a rapidly escalating shortage of staff with e-commerce skills.

Demand for traditional mainframe and client server skills has fallen dramatically with the number of advertisements for Unix dropping 48%, Oracle by 64% and Windows NT by 61%, compared to the same time last year.

Yet demand for internet skills, particularly, Java is reaching record levels, with the number of Java jobs advertised rising by 70% from 2,410 in the 2nd quarter last year, to 4,088 this year.

The growing popularity of Java reflects the move by many users towards Java-dependent packaged software. Software houses accounted for two-thirds of Java jobs advertised, the survey reveals.

Demand for staff with e-commerce skills and a background in client-server is particularly acute, the survey reveals.

With internet skills predicted to be in increasingly short supply, hopes for a rapid recovery in the jobs market look increasingly unlikely, said Philip Virgo strategic advisor to the Institute for the Management of Information Systems.

"E-commerce can't grow quickly enough because the skills don't exist to grow it quickly. Though overall recruitment is falling, lack of e-commerce skills is a constraint to recovery," he said.

The e-commerce skills shortage has prompted some firms to offer bounties to find them Java programmers.

"Requirements for Java and e-commerce have picked up considerably," said Dave Pinto, contracts director at IT recruitment specialist Computer People.

Java specialists with experience in C++ and business analysis are commanding the highest rates but demand for Java specialists with Visual Basic skills is also strong.

Although the Computer Weekly/SSP survey does not take into account Web advertising, it is an accurate reflection of the relative demand for IT skills. A survey by Cranfield School of Management reveals that 60% of companies are unwilling to use the Web for recruitment.

Full report

Mark Smith, general manager at City IT recruitment firm Knight Munro, said that only three skills are hot at the moment: "Java, Java, Java."

E-commerce company, Entranet, is offering to pay a £50,000 reward to secure a team of 10 Java specialists.Traditional IT skills, including Novell, RRG/400, SAP, Lotus Notes, MVS and DB2 have been pushed out of the top twenty-five in the past 12 months to make way for CML, Cobra, WAP and Solaris.

Winners and losers - salaries offered

JOB TITLE Q2 2000 Q2 1999 CHANGE
Network support technician £23,219 £20,892 +11%
Software engineer £29,701 £27,862 +7%
IT Manager £56,970 £54,039 +5%
Programmer £24,087 £23,212 +4%
Operator £21,946 £21,112 +4%
Systems developer £32,300 £31,349 +3%
Analyst/programmer £27,666 £26,913 +3%
Systems analyst £28,601 £28,247 +1%
Management Consultant £70,723 £72,485 -2%
PC support analyst £21,993 £23,368 -6%


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