The IT recruitment market continued to drop in the run-up to the millennium, but e-business and Internet skills bucked the trend, according to our exclusive SSP survey.
The final quarter of 1999 saw demand for Internet-related skills increase for the second quarter in succession. All other skills fell in demand as IT sites concentrated on preparations for the millennium.
Despite the general downturn in recruitment, object-oriented programming skills were more sought after than traditional,third-generation programminglanguage expertise,whileconventionalmainframeand midrange skills continued their precipitate decline.
These are some of the conclusions from the latest issue of the SSP/ComputerWeekly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends.
Java appeared in 5% more job specifications in the fourth quarter than in the same period last year, and has consequently risen three places over the year to eighth, equalling its position in the third quarter of 1998.
Demand for generic Internet skills has risen much more dramatically, from 1,170 jobs last year to this 1,600 this. This is a jump of 16 places up the table from 25th to ninth position. Also entering the top 10 for the first time is HTML, after a 27% rise in demand from the fourth quarter of 1998.
These increases are the more remarkable because the market was very quiet, waiting with bated breath for the dawn of the new millennium. Overall, there were less than half as many jobs offered during the last three months of 1999 than in the corresponding period in 1998.
Demand for TCP/IP experience, for example, was less than half that of a year ago. But TCP/IP still rose up the table four places to 13th position. E-business applications accounted for the majority of new developments over the last three months.
Another noteworthy alteration over the last quarter was the rise in popularity of object-oriented programming. As a generic skill this has moved 10 places up the table to its highest ever position of 12th. The most popular object-oriented language, C++, has consolidated its position at the top of the table by featuring in over 1,100 more advertisements than any other skill.
In contrast, demand for traditional languages plummeted as Y2K compliance projects reached completion. Cobol featured in just 700 adverts over the three months, down from 4,500 a year ago, and as a result has fallen out of the top 10 for the first time since the SSP survey began.
Cobol is now required for only half of the major IBM mainframe site development positions, compared to two- thirds a year ago, and hardly features at all elsewhere. Non-IBM mainframe sites advertised just three Cobol development positions this period, compared to 431 a year ago.
The picture is much the same for Digital sites - nine jobs advertised this year compared to 204 a year ago. Surprisingly, it is old-fashioned Basic that has replaced Cobol as the most popular Digital site programming language.
PL/I was another language to soar in demand as a result of year 2000 compliance work, and is now sinking into oblivion just as quickly. It featured in just 62 advertisements compared to 700 a year ago, and has fallen 25 places in the table to 59th as a result.
Other mainframe-related skills showed similar falls in demand. Cics has fallen 13 places over the year to 25th, and DB2 nine places to 23rd. In the ICL world, VME demand was down 90% on 1998 and this skill has fallen 24 places to 64th. Expertise in the IDMS database system featured in only 28 advertisements, again down 90% on a year ago, while IMS featured in just seven compared to 335 last year.
In the IBM midrange sector, RPG 400 has fallen out of the top 20 after featuring in less than a third of the advertisements of a year ago. Here the reason is more that AS/400 sites are simply not recruiting: those that did still specified RPG 400 as a requirement for nine out of 10 development positions.
All of these findings are consistent with a picture of users switching focus from legacy systems to new applications. There are, however, some more surprising falls in demand.
Microsoft Office, for example, has seen demand fall by more than three-quarters, and has tumbled 13 places to 26th as a result. Powerbuilder is down 11 places to 35th, and Uniface 22 places to 64th.
Demand for Windows NT expertise has fallen by more than the average for the second consecutive quarter, and has slipped behind both C++ and Oracle as a result.
Ada is one of the few skills to show an increase in demand both this time and last. It featured in 290 advertisements in the fourth quarter, compared to 220 a year ago, and has moved up 29 places to 31st. A third of all Ada demand came from comms companies.
This was the only industry sector to increase its recruitment relative to last year, which has affected one or two other placings. X.25, for example, is up 32 places to 29th because the comms sector was advertising three times as many positions requiring this skill as a year ago. Lan (up eight places to 15th) and Wan (up 11 to 16th) also benefit from the increase in recruiting in this sector.
Skills most in demand over the past quarter
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The SSP/Computer Weekly 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, 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 59 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 an annual subscription costs £325. This covers four issues and includes a free copy of software, which lets you select combinations of region, industry and software skills for a specified job type.