Java, C++ among skills in demand

Application development skills are ones that CIOs consider among the most sought after skills in IT, according to a survey by Robert Half Technology.

Asked what they consider to be the strongest growth area in Canadian corporate IT departments, the CIOs surveyed for the Robert Half Technology Hot Jobs Report placed application development third, just behind help desk/end-user support and networking.

And within the application development category, object-oriented programming languages such as C++ and Java, are among those that will probably be in demand in the future, according to another study conducted by IDC Canada. The skills required by those within the IT industry and those in the greater community at large are slightly different, said Julie Kaufman, the research manager for skills development at Toronto-based IDC.

Visual Basic skills were seen by 60 per cent of companies to be in extremely short supply, Kaufman said, adding that companies within the IT industry had a higher demand for VB skills than those not in the industry.

HTML skills, Active Server Pages and IIS (Internet Information Server) were also among those in demand, according to a study done by IDC in conjunction with ITAC earlier this year.

However, the news isn’t all good. IDC found that about 50 per cent of hires made in 2001 were for positions that were already created, meaning only 50 per cent of the hires in 2001 were done to fill newly created jobs.

“My guess would be you probably saw more entirely new positions before than what you’re seeing now,” Kaufman said. However, there was a higher turnover rate in the past when jobs were more plentiful, she added.

What companies want even more than an ability to code is an ability to grasp the business need for the code, Kaufman said. Over 80 per cent said that verbal and written communication skills was something that more IT people needed to have.

This is certainly what Joanne Moore, a technical resources program manager at IBM Canada in Markham, Ont., looks for in a candidate.

“We’re looking for those that have leadership skills, the ability to think creatively, solve complex problems, work effectively in a team environment – those are the softer skills.”

IBM is seeking candidates with experience in C, C++ and Java, as well as knowledge of technologies such as XML and an understanding of database concepts and principles. While IBM is more focused on university hires for 2003, it is also looking for experienced professionals, Moore said.

Carl Paluszkiewicz agrees with Moore that Java and XML skills are marketable.

Business demands are the lead indicators of career trends, said Paluszkiewicz, the director of consulting services at SAS Institute Inc. in Toronto. Right now, IT is taking more of a role as a business change agent, he said. A lot of companies have made investments in ERP systems recently, along with a lot of overhauls for Y2K. Those companies are unlikely to be making replacements anytime soon, Paluszkiewicz said. This will affect the types of skills in demand, he said.

Because legacy systems are likely to be disparate, integration will be a big issue, he said. And the need for openness and integration will mean a demand for object-oriented programming language skills, such as Java and C#, because they allow for the creation of more seamless interfaces. Web services, XML and CORBA will also play a role, he said.