Catch the job get the right skills

With the rapid growth in specialised IT programming skills, which one should you gun for? Nicholas Enticknap reports

With the rapid growth in specialised IT programming skills, which one should you gun for? Nicholas Enticknap reports

For the first time, an Internet-related skill was the most sought after over the last three months. Java featured in 3,700 job advertisements in the latest issue of the SSP/Computer Weekly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends, over 400 more than the previous chart-topper, C++.

Java demand is led by the software houses, which advertised just over 2,000 jobs during the three months. It was the most sought after skill in the financial and media sectors as well and is, with Windows NT, one of only two skills to feature in the top 10 of all the industry sector league tables.

Generic Internet expertise has underlined the changing face of IT by retaining its position at number three. It was the only other skill to appear in more than 3,000 ads over the period, nearly treble the level of demand a year ago.

Other Web-based skills also feature strongly in the table. HTML is now in ninth place, while XML, which only entered the league table this year, is at number 12. Wap, another of the year's newcomers, is at number 22, up three places from the second quarter.

Nearly 40% of Wap jobs are advertised by the communications companies: the only other industry sector league table to feature the wireless protocol is publishing, which is the most Internet-aware sector, with Java comfortably top, HTML in third place and XML in sixth place.

Only two other skills in the top 25 appear in more ads this time than a year ago. The rise of Corba to 17th illustrates the increasing dominance of object-oriented programming development, while one place higher is Solaris. Its rise can be attributed to the growth of e-commerce, as Sun servers are proving very popular with application and Internet service providers.

Solaris appeared in just five more ads this time than a year ago, but that 1% growth is much better than for Unix overall, which fell by almost exactly the market average of 42%. It remains in fourth place. IBM's Unix variant, AIX, saw demand fall by a similar amount, and it is now 34th.

Another Internet-related skill, TCP/IP, almost joined the growth skills, with demand down just 5% from a year ago.

These skills are being looked for in applicants for all kinds of job position, and not just for specialist Web development jobs. There were only 700 of these advertised in the press during the quarter, just 3% of the 21,000 total IT jobs on offer.

The client/server skills which dominated the league table during the 1990s are now falling from favour. Even Windows NT is losing out to the Internet, and SSP's figures must give Microsoft serious cause for thought. Demand for NT expertise is down by more than half relative to this time last year, from 4,900 jobs to 2,200, and it has fallen to sixth in the table.

Windows 2000 is tabulated separately by SSP, but there were only 140 jobs listing this latest variant of NT during the quarter. Adding them in to the NT total does not affect NT's position in the table.

The software house sector is largely responsible for NT's lost popularity as Java and the other Internet skills take an increasing hold. Microsoft's flagship appeared in fewer than 800 ads from the sector, compared to 2,000 a year ago and 4,500 in the year before that.

The user sectors, with the exception of publishing, are still committed. NT remains the most popular skill in the public sector, a position it has held for nine quarters now. It is also still top in the engineering and utilities/energy sectors.

Other high flyers of the 1990s to lose a lot of ground over the quarter included Oracle (down 57%), Sybase (down 59%) and Visual Basic (down 49%). Oracle has fallen rapidly to seventh from its position at the top of the table just five quarters ago. Sybase has suffered from the fall in financial sector recruitment: these firms account for 40% of all Sybase demand.

Visual Basic lost its position at the top of the financial sector league table this time, with Java featuring most strongly here as well over the three months. But Visual Basic remains popular in the software house sector, which accounted for 60% of all demand for this language. Two other skills, Progress (down 61%) and Access (down 67%), have now fallen out of the top 25. All of these skills can be regarded as legacy now!

Novell, which disappeared from the top 25 last time, featured in less than 200 jobs in the past three months. The adverse publicity surrounding job losses at the company more than offset the arrival of Netware 6. Novell still shows strongly in the public sector league table, which accounts for a quarter of all demand.

Surprisingly, both major groupware products, Exchange and Notes, have also lost a lot of popularity, with demand falling by 61% and 81% respectively. They are now in 32nd and 33rd places.

Enterprise resource planning systems have faded following the Y2K boom, though this is less surprising as user attention turns to customer relationship and supply chain management and business-to-business initiatives. Demand for SAP skills fell by three quarters, with just 260 jobs on offer over the three months. Of these, 170 were offered by software houses, compared to 650 a year ago and 1,400 the year before that. In the manufacturing sector, though, SAP was the third most popular skill over the three months jointly with Unix. Peoplesoft demand fell by two-thirds: there were just 55 of those jobs advertised.

The traditional legacy skills have all fared worse still, as one would expect with mainframe and AS/400 site recruitment falling to their lowest ever levels. Cobol remains in the top 25 - just - but featured in well under 300 ads. Demand for Cics, DB2, MVS and RPG400 fell by three quarters or more, as much as 90% in the case of MVS which featured in just 92 ads this time compared with 900 a year ago and 1,600 the year before that.

Some specialist IBM skills are disappearing even faster, along with the demand for system programmers. JCL and VSAM featured in just eight ads, VTAM in two and JES2 in none at all. A year ago there were 187 JES2 jobs on offer, 159 requiring knowledge of VSAM and 101 calling on VTAM skills.

Table 1: Skills most in demand over the past quarter

3Q00 Pos 3Q99 Pos Skill Jobs on offer Jobs on offer Change 3Q00
      in 3Q00 in 3Q99 cf 3Q00
1 8 Java 3,703 2,638 +40%
2 1 C++ 3,253 5,947 -45%
3 13 Internet 3,075 1,064 +189%
4 4 Unix 2,626 4,473 -41%
5 5 SQL 2,477 4,184 -41%
6 3 Windows NT 2,203 4,929 -55%
7 2 Oracle 2,184 5,064 -57%
8 6 Visual Basic 2,001 3,920 -49%
9 12 HTML 1,823 1,109 +64%
10 7 C 1,799 3,252 -45%
11 11 TCP/IP 1,088 1,141 -5%
12 - XML 1,033 0 N/A
13 17 Object-oriented 801 954 -16%
14 18 Lan 519 943 -45%
15 15 Wan 485 1,013 -52%
16 30 Solaris 443 438 +1%
17 - Corba 433 0 N/A
18 9 Windows 401 1,482 -73%
19 27 Delphi 325 566 -43%
20 22 Sybase 321 790 -59%
21 23 Office 304 789 -61%
22 - Wap 281 0 N/A
23 35 Ada 278 315 -12%
24 10 Cobol 273 1,248 -78%
25 16 SAP 262 994 -74%
all jobs     21,054 36,228 -42%

Table 2: Top 10 skills in each industry sector

1 Java 5 1 4 1 4 8 9 7 7
2 C++ 2 3 3 4 9 7 3 - 9 10
3 Internet - 2 6 8 2 5 4 7 5 3
4 Unix 3 7 1 3 7 8 - 3 1 2
5 SQL 8 4 - 2 1 2 7 1 4 6
6 Windows NT 4 10 7 5 5 9 1 6 1 1
7 Oracle 6 8 10 7 8 4 - 2 1 5
9 HTML - 6 - - 3 3 8 7 10 8
10 C 1 9 5 - - - 2 - - -


CV: computer suppliers

W: software houses

CC: comms firms

FB: financial/banking

DR: distribution/retail

MP: media/publishing

En: engineering

Mn: manufacturing

UE: utilities/energy

PS: public sector

The SSP survey

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 and the quality national dailies and Sundays. 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 63 job categories. Within each job 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 £ 225, and for an annual subscription is £ 325. 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 write to Julie McInally, Floor 12, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS

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