Hot help desks

A survey of 270 Canadian CIOs has revealed that the hottest jobs in IT are in the help desk/end-user support field and in the networking arena.

Robert Half Technology International Inc. conducted the survey over the last fiscal quarter which revealed that of seven speciality areas ranked by the CIOs, growth in the help desk/end user support area was 18 per cent; in the networking space it was 17 per cent. These results were released in the research firm’s latest Hot Jobs Report.

The three top-rate jobs as far as growth in the networking arena were in network administration, security analysis and in network engineering.

When asked why these jobs experienced the highest growth, Stephen Mill, a regional manager for Robert Half Technology in Toronto, said that the situation is related to the fact that it is easier and less expensive for companies to upgrade and maintain what they currently have as opposed to spending money on new equipment. Specifically, he zeroed in on security as a particularly hot area to be working in. He said that companies are more concerned about security access issues, disaster recovery and data recovery.

“This fatalistic approach to the protection of data in your system has created a lot more jobs in networking,” he said. “If you’re skilled in security and have a very strong networking background, that’s in demand today.”

That sentiment was echoed by Cam Robitaille, who was a PC and networking specialist at Compel Technology Inc. based in Toronto before his promotion to a partner and production manager at the same company. Robitaille has worked in the field for three years, starting as a computer technician who moved into the networking area through professional growth, personal interest and self-study.

“Companies are hiring more networking professionals with the ability to secure existing networks,” he said.

Focusing on building and providing networking support for businesses in the property management and medical industries, Robitaille said that in the three years he’s worked in the networking arena, he’s seen security issues come to the forefront.

“Since I started, security, which has always been an issue, has moved much more into the spotlight,” he said. “The advancement of the Internet and all the problems that can arise from it (lost productivity, theft, viruses) have meant a focusing of talents protecting company interests in order to realize the potential the Internet offers. Opportunities in networking have changed in a reflection of the emergence of these issues.”

As far as network engineering and administration go, Mill said that companies are looking to upkeep and upgrade their existing networks, and that’s where the growth in those fields is coming from.

In the help desk/end-user support area Mill said that most companies are running extremely lean but must still be quick to handle both internal and external support questions.

“That’s also true from an external perspective – so many of the applications in use today are being used by clients, so if I can’t run the risk of losing a client today, I need to support my product the best I can,” he said.

As a result, he said most of the help desk jobs are in the upper echelons; a person employed in this type of position is not just “a half-qualified person with a manual in front of them,” Mill said. He added that individuals in demand are extremely technical and possess outstanding communications skills.

The main results of the survey don’t vary greatly from the last one, said Mill, where help desk demand and networking demand was still high.

“It just stands to reason that companies aren’t spending a whole lot of money investing in new technology, so what they have needs to be supported.”

However, in this survey, applications development had increased to 16 per cent, Internet/Intranet development came in at 12 per cent. Growth in project management and data/database management tied at eight per cent, followed by systems analysis at four per cent. Another four per cent of CIOs said they saw no growth and 14 per cent said they didn’t know.