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Employers opt for staff with e-talent

E-commerce boom is fuelling demand for staff with internet and web-related skills

Employers are shunning staff with traditional IT skills in favour of internet and web programming skills as more companies re-orientate their IT departments towards e-commerce.

Demand for staff with Java, HTML and XML skills rose dramatically during the first three months of the year, straining an over-stretched labour market, the latest Computer Weekly/SSP analysis of job advertising reveals.

At the same time, the IT industry has seen the most dramatic downturn in demand for traditional IT skills. The number of IT jobs advertised fell from 59,000 in the first quarter of 1999 to 32,000 in the first quarter this year, the largest fall in a decade.

The rising demand for e-commerce staff is placing renewed pressure on employers to retrain traditional IT workers with the latest skills. It will also persuade employers to turn in increasing numbers to application service providers, rather than to attempt projects in house.

The number of jobs advertised for internet specialists practically doubled to 3,600 in the first three months of the year compared to 1,236 at the same time in 1999. Over the same period the number of advertisements for HTML skills rose by 139% and for Java by 33%.

IT professional and training bodies have responded to the survey’s findings by urging employers to begin investing in training to create home-grown e-commerce specialists, rather than relying on the increasingly overstretched labour market.

"Not enough employers are training their own people. This should encourage existing staff to stay and cut down on recruitment costs. Employers are worried about the high cost of training, yet they tolerate their staff leaving and high recruitment costs," said John O'Sullivan director of Alliance for Information Systems Skills.

“It needs employers and individuals to commit on training and investment. When DB2 was in demand, employers took their IT professionals and retrained them. It should be the same with e-commerce,” said David Pinto, national operations director for Computer People.

Philip Virgo, strategic advisor to the Institute for the Management of Information Systems, said that long-serving staff with expertise in mainframes and systems analysis would be ideally placed for retraining in e-commerce skills.

For the first time, demand for client/server skills has fallen significantly reflecting the moratorium imposed by many employers after completing their Y2K work.

The number of Windows jobs fell by 75% from 4,000 to just over 1,000. Advertised Windows NT jobs fell by 63% from 10,000 to 4,000 and the number of Visual Basic jobs halved from 7,000 to 3,200.

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