The recession may be over, but is the IT job seeker's struggle?

The recession is over and opportunities for IT professionals are on the up, but has the latest economic crisis left an indelible mark on the profession?

The recession is over and opportunities for IT professionals are on the up, but has the latest economic crisis left an indelible mark on the profession?

The past couple of years have been doom and gloom for many in the IT sector. But the UK has now officially risen from the recession, albeit tentatively, and opportunities for IT workers are returning.

One Unix system administrator, who works as a contractor, says the job market is picking up, but adds that the recession has left a permanent mark. "Outsourcing is taking its toll," he says. "There are skeleton IT teams at many large businesses."

He says many jobs are out of reach to UK professionals. "It is looking better, but many of the jobs are going offshore."

As a result he says the jobs market will not be as good as it was before the recession.

Changed permanently

He says the recession hit the banks hardest and as a result the IT jobs market has been changed permanently. "The banks drive the IT sector, but more and more jobs are going offshore because of the recession. This will leave a mark on the UK IT industry forever."

David Bloxham, director of recruitment services at GCS, says the IT recruitment market is "a lot rosier than it has been".

"Since November we have seen an increase in demand for both contract and permanent people. We have seen a rise in IT jobs available of 25% every month since then."He adds that the demand is spread across the public, media and finance sectors.

Candidates are now getting multiple offers and there is a shortage of people with certain skills. "There are still shortages and there are not enough UK skills to do the work needed," he says.

Another contractor, who wished to remain anonymous, says he has had to move backwards to go forwards. "I have mainframe skills, but I was applying for jobs and there were hundreds of others applying for them."

He says he decided to take an IT support role instead, which meant a cut in pay. "I now earn about two-thirds of what I used to."

Staying put

Contractors who are in work at the moment are staying put because opportunities are not coming their way.

One programme manager says although he is on a contract at present, he would expect more call from agencies. "They usually give you a call every other week but there is not a lot of that at the moment."

The increase in demand for IT professionals within businesses is mirrored in the supplies sector.

Sedef Buyukataman, graduate recruitment manager Western Europe at Cisco, said that the company's graduate recruitment scheme started off slowly this year but has picked up pace.

"We started with a handful of positions, but as the economy has picked up we are seeing a rise in requests to fill positions by the business," she said.

She says that the graduate recruitment programme is taking on as many people now as it did prior to the recession.

Ann Swain, CEO at Apsco, which represents recruitment companies, says according to the organisation's monthly statistics there has been a pick-up in IT roles. "We are finding that more permanent roles are increasing, but not hugely, and contractor roles are remaining static at a low level."

Challenging year

Iain McIlwee, head of commercial development at the Professional Contactors group which has thousands of IT contractors on its books, says 2009 was an extremely challenging year.

"January seems to have brought renewed optimism and stronger demand for contractors. It is early days to call this a trend, and clearly the spectre of public sector cuts hangs over the entire IT sector, but we remain confident that the unique labour model offered by the contracting community has a strong contribution to make in helping the UK emerge from the recession."

The green shoots have appeared, but people are still talking about a double-dip recession, so cautious optimism is the general feeling in the IT industry.

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