Contractor demand rises as financial services sector shows signs of recovery

The demand for IT contractors is beginning to increase amid signs that large financial companies are at last rolling out IT...

The demand for IT contractors is beginning to increase amid signs that large financial companies are, at last, rolling out IT projects that were put on the back burner until the economy improved.

But the recovery is too patchy and too tentative to suggest anything more than the beginnings of a slow upturn in the IT jobs market, said Harvey Nash, one of the UK’s leading IT recruitment agencies.

Demand for contractors with PC and network support skills is up 15% to 20% this quarter, compared with the last quarter of 2002, and demand for developers, though patchy, is also improving.

“Some companies are still not interested in development, but we are working with investment banks and big finance companies that are saying we are going to commit to IT programmes,” said Harvey Nash director Rory Ferguson.

IT projects by two or three major companies have sparked a heavy demand for contractors with C# skills. Demand for .net and Java is also reasonably strong, said Ferguson.

Most of the demand comes from software and systems integrators who are embarking on outsourcing contracts for end users. There is a lot of interest in SAP and companies are moving to Exchange 5 and Windows XP.

“From line managers we are hearing that there is work to be done, but there is no budget yet, so watch this space,” said Ferguson.

This optimism has yet to be reflected in demand for permanent IT staff. Companies are taking advantage of the flat market to demand people with business and communication skills, not just IT skills.

“I have seen an increase in focus on teamwork, communications and business skills. Demand has always been there but now we are in a buyers' market it has moved up the agenda,” said Ferguson.

There is also more emphasis on companies trying to retain skills in-house, with a greater proportion of firms looking to bring on board permanent project managers rather than temporary contractors.

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