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Client/server skills are gaining ground on Internet-related skills. Nicholas Enticknap reports

Client/server skills are gaining ground on Internet-related skills. Nicholas Enticknap reports

The skills league table shows significant change. SSP has started tracking a number of additional skills as part of the process of monitoring advertisements placed on the Web. Seven of these new skills feature in the top 25: the most popular of them, Microsoft's SQL Server, is in the top 10.

There is a major change at the top of the table. Unix is doing better now than it has for a number of years and has moved into first place over the past three months, albeit with a growth rate fractionally below the Web market average. The last time it was in this position was at the end of 1997, when Windows NT 4 was still establishing itself.

The demand for Unix skills is evenly spread. It is in first place in only one industry sector (finance), but is second or third in all the other sector league tables except energy (where it is fourth) and the public sector (sixth).

Interest in Sun's Unix variant, Solaris, is rising even faster, more than twice as fast as the market average, and it has moved up to 12th position. This skill is particularly sought after by the finance sector, which accounts for nearly a quarter of all Solaris demand.

Hewlett-Packard's variant, HP-UX, is much further down the table in 58th place, but the trend is in the same direction: it featured in more than twice as many ads as a year ago.

In between these two is Linux which, like Solaris, is moving at double the market average: it is up to 30th place.

Operating systems generally show up well in the third-quarter table, as Windows NT is also on an upward curve, rising two places to seventh. The replacement system, Windows 2000, is just three places outside the top 25 after demand increased six-fold from a year ago.

Microsoft is doing well with its applications too. Office, in eighth place, is in its highest-ever position. Interest is greatest in the financial sector, where it is fourth, while overall, demand is rising faster than for any other top 25 product. Access is also higher than ever before at 16th, and has a growth rate well above the market average.

Demand for Exchange has risen almost as fast as for Office. This is partly because interest in groupware is high: Lotus Notes is also doing well, featuring in two-thirds more ads than at this time last year.

The most popular programming language overall is C++, which was in second place. It is the best skill to have if you want a job in the IT industry, featuring at the top of each of the three IT industry sector league tables (computer suppliers software houses and communications companies). Most IT shops depend heavily on C++ skills as well: it is in the top five in all the user sectors except retail and the public sector.

The league table maintains the trend shown throughout 2001, with Internet-related skills slowly losing ground to conventional client/server skills as companies re-evaluate their e-business strategies.

Java, the highest-placed Web-based skill, is down two places to sixth. Demand for Java is evenly spread among users: it lies between fifth and eighth in all the industry sector tables except the public sector, where it is up to second. This is surprising, as the public sector has been the slowest to move over to Web-based advertising.

Overall, Java is one of only seven skills in the top 25 to feature in fewer Web ads than a year ago. Most of others are Internet-related.

HTML has seen such a big decline it has fallen out of the top 10. Here obsolescence is part of the explanation: HTML's replacement, XML, saw larger than average growth and is now just two places lower down the table.

Three of the other five declining skills are also used to build Web pages or applications; Javascript (down 29%), Perl (down 34%), and ASP (down 26%). A fourth, Cisco (down 3%), involves expertise in Internet infrastructure products. More than a quarter of the demand for expertise in Cisco products comes from the communications companies and in this sector league table it is third. Numerically, the greatest requirement, just over a third of all jobs advertised, comes from software companies, while Cisco is also popular in the public sector, where it is placed fourth.

The other declining skill is object-oriented programming, although it remains in the same place, 19th in the table. The fall is unlikely to be significant, probably advertisers are being more specific about the particular object technologies they intend to use.

The remaining skill in the top 25 rising at faster than the market average is Oracle, up by a third.

Further down the table, fast upward movers include Cobol in 29th place, where demand is running at more than double last year's level. This is part of a trend where all mainframe-related jobs and skills have done well this time after a long period of decline since the beginning of 1999. DB2, now 35th, is showing double last year's demand, and is as high as 10th in the energy sector league table, while CICS (52nd) is showing even greater growth though from a lower base.

One skill that has moved sharply downwards is Corba (41st, down from 24th a year ago). This is part of a trend away from component-based development that first appeared in the second quarter, although these numbers probably exaggerate the downturn. Two specific component-based skills, DCOM (22nd) and EJB (36th) are both featuring in more ads than a year ago, although in both cases the growth rate is smaller than the market average. It seems likely that what we have here is a period of consolidation after an initial burst of enthusiasm.

How the survey is compiled
This article is based on information contained in the SSP/Computer Weekly Quarterly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends.

The survey analyses advertisements for computer professionals in the trade press, quality national daily newspapers, and the main IT recruitment Web sites and the Sunday papers. It is primarily intended for recruitment agencies and IT managers with a substantial recruitment requirement.

The posts advertised are broken down in the survey into 65 job categories. Within each category, the survey provides details of the number of posts advertised and the average and median national salaries offered for the last quarter and for each of the previous four.

The survey provides further analyses within each job category by hardware type, industry type and region. It also provides a breakdown for the major job categories of the technical skills most in demand. In each analysis, it again details the average salary on offer for each of the past five quarters.

The price of a single issue of the survey is £250, and an annual subscription costs £350. This covers four issues, and includes a free copy of a Windows-based software product which allows selection of combinations of region, industry and software skills for a specified job type. For further information contact Bernardine Caine on 01488-72705, or e-mail bernardine.caine@rbi.co.uk.

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