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Java is top skill as e-business booms

Java has outstripped C++ as the most sought-after IT skill for the first time, highlighting a dramatic growth in demand for Internet-related skills

The number of Java job advertisements has increased by 40% over the past 12 months as companies rush to develop e-commerce sites on the Web.

The number of pages of job advertisements for Java specialists reached 3,700 in the last quarter, an SSP/Computer Weekly survey of job advertisements in the national and computer press has revealed.

It means that, for the first time, an Internet-related skill heads the list of the most sought-after skills, pushing C++, which saw a 45% drop in demand over the past year, into second place.

Growth in demand for generic Internet skills has risen by 189% over the past 12 months, the survey found. XML appeared in the top 20 list of skills for the first time this year, and demand for Wap has also risen strongly.

Capacity planners and technical architects, jobs that until recently were almost part of IT history are increasingly in demand and commanding good salaries, as companies look for people to manage the growing numbers of people accessing their Web sites.

But the struggle to find people with the right Internet skills masks a strong downturn in demand for more traditional IT skills.

The overall number of IT jobs advertised in the last quarter is down 16% from last year, as the IT jobs market begins a significant period of restructuring.

The slowdown has reinforced fears that it could be several years before spending on IT projects recovers to its pre-2000 levels.

Demand for client/server specialists is sinking, with the number of windows NT jobs falling by more than half from a year ago to 2,200. The number of pages of advertisements for Sybase skills has fallen by 59%, Oracle by 57% and Visual Basic by 49% over the past 12 months. Demand for SAP fell by 75% and for Peoplesoft by 66%.

But the worst performers have been the traditional legacy skills, with demand for mainframe and AS400 skills reaching their lowest levels ever. Demand for Cobol, Cics, DB2, MVS and RPG400 has fallen significantly.

Observers suggest that spending on IT will not recover to its pre-2000 levels until the arrival of broadband spurs another round of major IT projects.

"We are in for a long haul unless the Government gives a 100% tax allowance on telecoms investment," said Philip Virgo, strategic advisor to the Institute for the Management of Information Systems. "I am not expecting to see overall recovery until broadband is available.

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