IT departments will find it increasingly difficult to recruit the right people as demand grows for staff with e-commerce and Internet skills.
Evidence of the growing demand for Internet skills is one key finding in the latest SSP/Computer Weekly exclusive quarterly study of the IT recruitment market.
However, IT recruitment levels will not return to the peaks of 1997/1998 overnight. The first three months of 2000 will see firms still taking stock of any Y2K repercussions, planning future strategies and waiting for their new IT budgets in April.
The survey found that fewer than 29,000 jobs were advertised in the IT and national press in the three months to December 1999, less than half of the 58,000 advertised in the same period of 1998. For the second quarter in succession, IT sites reduced demand for all skills - except Internet related ones.
Recruitment specialists and IT analysts predict that demand for IT professionals will soar again by the early autumn of this year, with Internet and e-commerce skills such as Java and HTML at the forefront.
"Recruitment patterns will probably not surge again until the third quarter of this year. I would have thought that 2001 will be even busier," said Marc Preston-Allen, managing director of Bristol-based IT recruitment firm, Pendragon.
Java, Internet and HTML skills have all rocketed into the top 10 list of IT skills in demand over the last year.
David Bevan, head of strategic development at IT staffing specialist Best International Group, warned that Java would be one of the must-have skills for IT departments this year, pushing salaries through the roof.
"If two or three big City institutions start recruiting Java skills and paying whatever it takes, it starts a panic in the market," he said.
Users are being advised to avoid being priced out of the Java skills market by training existing staff.
Just as Net skills bucked the overall trend for a decline in IT recruitment, only one user sector saw overall recruitment levels rise during the last part of 1999 - communications. While the finance sector cut recruitment by more than 60% compared to 1998, comms firms upped their recruitment drives.