CIOs expect double-digit IT hiring this fall

The final three months of 2001 will see a 12 per cent increase in the hiring of IT professionals, according to a recent poll of Canadian executives.

The survey of almost 300 chief information officers (CIOs), commissioned by RHI Consulting, found that 17 per cent planned to hire IT staff before the end of the year, while five per cent expected layoffs. CIOs responding from the financial services, insurance and real estate industries expect to be the most active, with 36 per cent adding to their IT divisions, while six per cent plan to make cuts.

Although these numbers were not surprising to Stephen Mill, RHI’s Toronto-based senior regional manager, he said they do clear up a common misperception in these confusing economic times. Although many floundering high-tech firms are still laying people off, many companies in other industries have a lingering need for skilled information technology workers to bring their infrastructures up to scratch, he said.

“If you look at the types of talent we’re talking about – networking talent, help-desk support, database specialists – this is all relating to what a company needs to do to clean up house today. It’s not really relating to a lot of new projects or fulfilling IT wish lists,” Mill said.

“Why would companies want to hire helpdesk (staff)? Well, for many companies there are not a lot of new clients coming through the door today, so they better have top-notch help desk and support people – especially if they are supporting a product or service.”

As well as the fall-off in new high-tech jobs, Mill said that the absence of IT hiring in the manufacturing sector is yet another indicator of the much-publicized economic slowdown. However, two factors lead him to feel “pretty optimistic” about IT employment prospects in the not-too-distant future.

“[Firstly], technology isn’t going to wait for anyone and there has been some very exciting news from products on the runway – wireless, a new operating system from Microsoft – these are very exciting developments and companies can’t ignore them. The other thing is that although a lot of companies have been focussing internally on fixing infrastructure from an IT perspective, to continue to grow they are going to have to look at new projects,” he said.

“Those two factors combined tell us that a lot of companies are going to ride out the balance of the year, and in Q1 through Q2 (of 2002) you will see more new projects come on line, which will be an indicator that there is confidence.”