Internet drives demand for IT skills

The growth of e-commerce continues to create the biggest job opportunities, according to the latest SSP/Computer Weekly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends

The growth of e-commerce continues to create the biggest job opportunities, according to the latest SSP/Computer Weekly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends.

E-skills continued to dominate IT recruitment during the final quarter of 2000, as recorded in the latest issue of the SSP/Computer Weekly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends. They now occupy the top two positions in the skills league table, and for the first time account for six of the top 20 skills (or seven if Solaris, heavily favoured as a Web server operating system, is included).

Generic Internet expertise features at the top of the table for the first time and was the only skill in the top 25 to feature in more than twice as many advertisements as a year ago. Among individual industry sectors it was top in media and retail and in the top four places everywhere except the financial and manufacturing areas.

It features in the computer supplier league table top 10 for the first time, which makes you wonder what these folks have been up to for the past few years.

Demand for Java continues to rise, but by only 20% this time, which means it has fallen to second place after just one quarter at the top. It features in every industry sector except manufacturing, which is proving the slowest to move into the e-world. There were just nine Java jobs on offer from companies in this sector over the last three months.

Java demand is being driven by the software houses, which advertised more than 1,800 jobs over the three months. It was the most sought-after skill in the financial sector as well.

Overall, despite a conspicuous lack of enthusiasm from Microsoft, Java remained the most popular programming language during the period, although it only appeared in 44 more ads than C++. This language was the most popular with advertisers last year as a whole. It was also top in the computer suppliers league table over the three months.

All but one of the skills in the top 25 which showed growth in demand were Web or Internet-based. They are HTML (up one place from a year ago to ninth); TCP/IP (up two to 11th place, and top of the communications company league table for the first time); Solaris (up 14 to 18th); plus XML, Corba and Wap, which did not enter the table until the start of last year.

The one exception is Ada, which appeared in 350 ads this time, up from 290 at the end of 1999. This lifted it 14 places up the table to 17th. Demand for Ada was strongest in the engineering sector, where it was in third place over the quarter. (This sector also accounted for more than half of all Pascal jobs.)

Curiously, there was not a single advertisement requiring Ada from the public sector. Much of the rest of the requirement for Ada came from the IT hardware sector. Comms companies wanted 25% more Ada specialists than a year ago, while computer suppliers doubled their demand.

Ada was very much the exception among the established software skills.

Many of those that dominated IT site requirements during the 1990s are now falling slowly but surely from favour, including some surprises.

Demand for Oracle, for example, fell by nearly half, and it is now outside the top five. This is partly a reflection of the recruiting interests of the software industry, the largest single sector. Here the Oracle requirement fell 44%. But it is also losing ground in user sectors - financial institutions cut their demand for Oracle by 55%.

Windows NT is also now in the lower reaches of the top 10 after a 42% fall in demand. The software house sector was clearly influential here, cutting its requirement by 61%. Software houses have been stepping up their requirement for Internet skills over the second half of 2000 - they advertised 70% of XML posts over the past three months.

Windows NT is now out of the top three in every industry table except two - manufacturing and the public sector - where it remains in first place (in the latter case for the 10th consecutive quarter). It is, however, one of only three skills to feature in every table, along with Internet and Unix.

Windows 2000 is tabulated separately by SSP. It has not yet aroused much enthusiasm, featuring in just under 200 jobs over the quarter. Adding those jobs to the NT total would take it above Oracle into sixth.

Other client/server software skills which featured heavily in the 1990s but which fell by more than half in the last quarter include Access, Office, Progress and Sybase.

All of which is bad news for Microsoft. Big Bad Bill still has friends in high places, though: the public sector is the most enthusiastic about Microsoft products. Windows NT is easily top of that league table, featuring in more than twice as many ads as any other skill. Office is third, while client Windows, Windows 2000 and Exchange all feature in the top 25.

Overall, Exchange fell by nearly a half, while Lotus Notes dropped 64%. Notes is now only just within the top 30, while Exchange is down to 33rd.

Enterprise resource planning systems have also had their day, as attention switches to customer relationship management, supply chain management and business-to-business systems. Demand for SAP skills fell by two-thirds, and this skill is now out of the top 25. Demand is only holding up well in the small manufacturing sector, where it was in third place, though this meant just 24 jobs on offer.

The legacy skills that were so much in demand for year 2000 compliance projects a couple of years ago now scarcely feature at all. There were just 185 Cobol jobs on offer (a quarter of them in the retail sector, where the language still features in the top 10), and 178 RPG400 jobs.

Posts involving PL/I fell to just 26, half of them advertised by the retail sector.

Demand here is probably artificially low, as IT departments still need legacy skills to integrate their established mission-critical systems with the new wave of e-commerce applications and front-ends. Most such departments, however, have a sufficiency of such skills now that Y2K projects are complete.

IBM mainframe skills are similarly depressed. There were 55 MVS jobs (more than half from the financial sector), 46 TSO positions, 38 IMS jobs and just 18 positions requiring expertise in JCL.

And our survey said

These articles are 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 mean 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.

Skills most in demand over the past quarter

Q4 2000 Q4 1999 Jobs on offer Change    
Position Position Skill Q4 2000 Q4 1999 Q4 2000
1 9 Internet 3,395 1,600 +112%
2 8 Java 3,290 2,699 +22%
3 1 C++ 3,246 5,236 -38%
4 5 SQL 2,402 3,425 -30%
5 4 Unix 2,385 3,524 -32%
6 2 Oracle 2,173 4,061 -47%
7 3 Windows NT 2,105 3,653 -42%
8 6 Visual Basic 2,015 3,294 -39%
9 10 HTML 1,772 1,182 +50%
10 7 C 1,692 2,813 -40%
11 13 TCP/IP 1,071 874 +23%
12 - XML 984 N/A
13 15 Lan 654 701 -7%
14 12 Object-oriented 647 915 -29%
15 16 Wan 623 681 -9%
16 11 Windows 401 1,136 -65%
17 31 Ada 350 290 +21%
18 32 Solaris 348 297 +21%
19 - Corba 343 N/A
20 - Wap 289 N/A
21 28 Delphi 285 386 -26%
22 19 Sybase 267 606 -56%
23 22 Access 249 558 -55%
24 26 Office 219 473 -54%
25 27 Progress 214 468 -54%
    All jobs 20,332 28,700 -29%

Positions of top 10 skills in industry sector league tables

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

Help solve the skills crisis

This month, Computer Weekly readers have a unique opportunity to help shape the future of UK e-commerce.

The Department for Education and Employment has asked the E-Skills National Training Organisation to co-ordinate a three-year strategic plan to galvanise employers, suppliers and the Government into solving the UK's shortage of e-skills. It is now seeking feedback from the IT community.

Below is a summary of the eight key proposals. E-mail [email protected] telling us which three you favour most, in descending order. Suggestions by 26 February 2001.

E-Skills NTO's draft proposals

1 Industry-wide programmes to encourage new IT recruits

2 Improved industry/education links

3 Promote benefits of training to employers and publicise success stories to spark more training investment

4 Core set of IT qualifications and training programmes tailored for employers, combining supplier exams and NVQs and encourage employers to introduce modern apprenticeships and graduate apprenticeships

5 Employer "kitemark" for providers and courses, to encourage employers to adopt common job titles and definitions

6 Improve e-business take-up by small companies by establishing a small-business Web portal

7 Predict future skills needs by analysing regional skills gaps, and regular IT Skills Foresight reports

8 Major package of initiatives to improve IT literacy.

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