Demand from the big outsourcing suppliers for experienced, qualified IT staff with management skills has risen over the past year.
Perot Systems and EDS are among the firms recruiting heavily after winning large contracts, while others, such as Accenture and Capgemini, are hiring at a slower pace, recruitment agencies reported this week.
Much of the demand is for senior IT staff with the skills and experience needed to take over the running of major projects, said Paul Smith, managing director for offshore software at recruitment firm Harvey Nash.
"Firms are looking for people with professional qualifications, people with a very strong programme management background. People who have worked and managed similar sized projects, with strong client relationship skills, and obviously people management," he said.
Traditional technical jobs have been replaced by jobs that require both the technical knowledge and management skills, said Andy Lord, director of ReThink Recruitment. Demand for technical architects is particularly strong, he said.
"A technical architect used to be someone who lived in the back room and was very introverted and technology focused from concept to delivery. They now lead the technology team in the implementation and they are much more customer focused."
The major outsourcing suppliers are demanding similar technical skills - a mixture of Unix, Windows and mainframe skills, creating pressure that is pushing up salary rates, said Lord.
"Firms like BT, Fujitsu, CSC, Capgemini and EDS are all looking for the same skills. It has hiked the price of the individual and it has become quite a transient market. People are being headhunted and offered £10,000 or £15,000 more than their existing salaries," he said.
Richard Herring, director at Volt Europe, said that experienced project managers who have gained additional qualifications were being snapped up by the outsourcing specialists.
"The best mix is where you have a career project manager who has invested in their career," he said. "They have combined project management and project control methodologies such as Prince with a quality of service qualification such as ITIL."
Matt Staley, recruitment services manager at Fujitsu Services, said the firm had 300 IT vacancies. The company is looking for senior management consultants who are business-focused rather than technology-focused, project managers, and test and validation specialists.
"We are doing an awful lot of recruiting on the back of some successes we have had over the past two years. We literally have hundreds of vacancies. Although we are filling vacancies quickly, the demand is huge," he said.
Robert Morgan, director of outsourcing consultancy Morgan Chambers, estimated that demand for IT staff from the outsourcing specialists is up 5% this year overall. But it is concentrated in large deals, he said.