Hiring forecast sunny, little chance of showers

A recent survey by IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology — a division of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based staffing firm Robert Half International Inc. — found that the IT hiring outlook in Canada is not as dismal as some may fear.

The poll of 270 CIOs from companies across Canada found that 12 per cent of respondents are actually planning to add IT staff in the second quarter of 2009. Another 78 per cent were planning on keeping the IT staff numbers they already had.

“I see a lot of optimism in the IT sector,” said Rod Miller, regional vice-president for Robert Half Technology in Calgary.

The hiring demand was being driven by a few different factors, according to the respondents, including high or increased IT workloads (50 per cent), routine hirings (28 per cent), and corporate growth (15 per cent).

“It’s a skillset that will always be in demand, especially as companies are now looking for ways to be more efficient,” said Miller.

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Four per cent of the respondents were planning on staff reductions over the next quarter. Reasons cited included company-wide layoffs (57 per cent) and the current economy (25 per cent).

“What we’re seeing is companies are reducing staff not nearly as much as they’re gaining staff,” said Miller.

Of the CIOs, 41 per cent were planning to take on full-time hires, while 33 per cent were going the contract hire route. The latter route might become more popular as the recession wears on, Miller said, as employers are unsure about bringing someone on permanently, or are saving money by bringing workers in on a project-based, as-needed basis.

Skills most in-demand were desktop support (76 per cent) and network administration (75 per cent). This ties in to the fact that companies want to get that competitive edge. “When it comes to hiring, help desk and desktop support is important as companies want to be much more efficient with the resources that they have,” Miller said.

To get that edge, companies might be investing in more cutting-edge technologies that require some upkeep at the end user level; these include virtualization, wireless communication, and business intelligence, said Miller.

The professional services and wholesale sectors were the most optimistic about the hiring situation. This is in line with the current economic climate, where many companies are turning to outside opinions on optimizing what they have. “You’ll see more and more people turning to specialized services,” according to Miller.

The recession does have the silver lining of some companies rallying around those who have lost their jobs already. Cutter Consortium, the Arlington, Mass.-based IT research and consulting company, is offering to those laid off from their client companies access to their research for free.

“This will help people stay current with what’s going on in the market,” said Ann Mullaney, vice-president of marketing.

So far, this type of outreach is rare, according to Bernard Courtois, president of the Information Technology Association of Canada. But this lack of industry support is being offset by the support available via social networking tools today, he said.

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“These tools are exceptionally valuable now, from Facebook to LinkedIn. It’s allowing users to reach out to a much broader audience for suggestions and leads,” said Courtois.

Mullaney has also seen Twitter come to the fore in helping those out of work, including people posting helpful job-seeking advice on their feeds. “There’s a lot of empathy out there,” she said.

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