IT vacancies rise in Q3 2010 - is now the time to hire?

As the IT industry re-emerges from the recession, IT spending is down but IT vacancies have increased again this quarter, as a shortage of skills emerges in the UK.

As the IT industry re-emerges from the recession, IT spending is down but IT vacancies have increased again this quarter, as a shortage of skills emerges in the UK.


The number of vacancies in IT has continued to grow this year compared to 2009. With almost 90,000 job vacancies in the UK this quarter, Sid Barnes, executive director at Computer People, says companies made too many cutbacks last year, meaning more vacancies are being advertised post-recession. "There is a glut of vacancies but not enough people to do those jobs," says Barnes.

Barnes anticipates IT budgets to increase by an average of 1.5% next year. However, Gartner has forecast IT spending in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) will show a decline of 2.1% in enterprise IT spending in 2010 compared to 2009. With almost 90,000 unfilled IT jobs, is now the best time for IT departments to hire?

The latest Salary Services Limited (SSL)/Computer Weekly IT salary survey found demand for IT professionals grew with an increase of 7.6% in recruitment for the third quarter of 2010 compared to a rise of 1% to 2% in 2009.

UK IT vacancies increased 7.4% from 75,379 last quarter to 80,921 jobs in the third quarter of 2010, with contract vacancies being 23.3% higher than at the beginning of the year.

"Job opportunities are still down by half of the 2007 and 2008 pre-recession levels," says George Molyneaux, research director for SSL, which suggests CIOs and IT departments are still holding back on recruitment.

Increase in pay has slowed, with an increase of 1.3% since a year ago. With salaries ranging from £20,000 a year for PC help desk support for Microsoft Office, to £103,210 a year for an IT director, systems developers with experience in high-demand IT skills, such as, SQL, C#, C or .Net could cost an organisation up to £41,395 a year. But what skills should IT departments look to hire in?

IT skills in demand

SQL remains the top skill in demand followed by C, C# and .Net. The only top ten skills to see a fall in demand are Oracle and Java.

"Microsoft have made .Net the best development framework bar none. Companies that used to use Java and Oracle are now simply moving across to .Net due to the time, resource, effort and skill invested into the framework," adds Barnes.

Over 60% of all jobs advertised for system administrators require skills in Linux, Unix or Solaris. The report says Linux has now firmly established itself as the main platform, with three times as many jobs advertised than for Unix.

The survey also found senior database administrators can cost businesses up to rates of £64 per hour with salaries of up to £68,364 in the finance sector. This is particularly high compared to £36 per hour for network support engineers and £19 per hour for contract hardware engineers.

"During this quarter a number of up and coming skills have been added to the tables," says Molyneaux. "These include Agile, a project development process and VMWare, a virtualisation infrastructure platform," he adds. "Other additions include Scrum, a management development tool used with Agile and Android. Java has been replaced with newer skills."

Demand for permanent PC support staff was up 14.9% compared to the previous quarter.

"PC support is not seen as a sexy IT role. Being grunt-level work, not enough people are coming through as it's not seen as a job people want to do," says Clive Longbottom, head of research at analyst firm, Quocirca.

Management vacancies are up 8.7%. System development and programming represents 39.5% of all jobs advertised, with software houses and financial organisations being the main employers for 31,933 vacancies. The finance sector was responsible for 35.8% of the total number of IT jobs advertised, an increase of 13.6%. Software houses made up 44.5% of contract demand while public sector recruitment was down 35.9% compared to the first quarter.

Time to hire employees or contractors with IT skills

"A lot of companies are now looking at apprenticeship schemes, such as IBM and Microsoft. They've seen that there is a candidate shortage and are returning to an apprentice model to train people up in-house, turning the raw products into the next generation of IT professionals," says Sid Barnes, executive director from Computer People.

Barnes believes that now is a good time for companies to hire permanent and contract staff as well as working to retain existing staff during the candidate shortage.

"Companies who act quickly will secure the best staff at lower salaries. IT departments can still pick up candidates with very good skills for lesser salaries than two years ago. The companies experiencing the best results are the ones who are committed to hiring and are moving quickly to secure the best candidates on the market as well as looking to retain the best staff in-house as well."

Companies are hiring, such as Citigroup, which will create 440 IT jobs in a technology and operations centre in Belfast over the next five years. While job advertisement levels are a long way off pre-recession numbers, the SSL survey shows that IT departments' recruitment of skills, such as, .Net, C# and C, remains high. Database administrators are commanding high salaries and businesses appear to be making use of Linux servers. Things are improving but budgets are still tight and companies will most likely have a backlog of shelved projects to hire in for.

Five tips for employees seeking graduates for IT roles

Andrew Tuson, assistant dean at City University in London, gives five tips for employers seeking graduates for IT roles.
1. Be clear about what you want. I have worked with a broad range of employers: ask them what they want in a graduate, you often get different answers. The star graduate for a creative tech start-up in Shoreditch will not necessarily fit a graduate role in one of the major IT consultancies (or vice versa).
2. Do you need someone with skills right now, or raw talent to develop? The first can be assessed by CV filters and well-designed skills tests; raw talent is harder to spot.
3. Don't use 'A' level grades as a filter. Performance three years ago is not a strong predictor of performance now, especially as 'A' levels measure competencies that reflect school life rather than employment.
4. Take placement experience seriously. The evidence is overwhelming that students who have gained work experience as part of their degree are more work-ready. The best way to secure your future talent is to work with local universities in taking placement students on.
5. Build relationships with local universities. They actively want their graduates to be employed and if they understand their local IT employment markets, this will feed into course design. You can also find the universities with a good fit to your particular skills needs: the diversity of what universities offer is a strength.

The IT skills companies should keep in-house

What skills should organisations keep in-house? Clive Longbottom, founder of analyst firm, Quocirca, offers his advice
Business continuity "Companies need to keep hold of people with key skills in business continuity. These people can rapidly identify the root cause of problems in a highly complex environment up and down the value chain, some of which might be virtualised, to highlight what's going wrong and locate the right people to fix it."
Intermediary translators "Organisations don't need an IT guru to do everything. Skills are moving outside with the cloud being taken more seriously. You want people in IT who can act as a translator between business and technology, an intermediary type of role that can address business problems with the IT functions that an organisation has available."
Techies "The decline in Java demand is surprising as companies are doing a lot more in Java and Flash. Again, it's a case of shrinking requirements within an organisation for such skills and growing the need outside through software vendors and cloud providers. Being part of a business now means being a technical person."

Read more on IT jobs and recruitment