Outlook for IT jobs in Australia is positive

SYDNEY – With an abundance of projects in the cards for 2009, the outlook for IT recruitment remains positive, according to Melbourne-based IT recruiter Peter Acheson.

Acheson, chief operating officer of IT recruitment specialists Peoplebank, expects recruitment to pick-up by April next year, fuelled by a considerable amount of IT project work that is in the pipeline or already underway, including system upgrades at many of the large Australian banks.

“All of the major banks are doing core system upgrades. CBA and NAB have already commenced with theirs, Westpac have got the integration of St George bank, a project that is very big and will drive a substantial amount of IT work,” said Acheson, who also cited the NBN as driving a considerable amount of IT work in 2009.

Acheson says that even though IT has experienced a softening in permanent recruitments throughout the year, employers don’t believe the current economic crisis will impact their ability to attract and retain employees. That message is echoed in recruiting firm Hudson’s latest Recruitment Focus IT&T research, released earlier this month and based on survey responses from 1056 IT&T hiring managers.

“Over a number of years now it has been difficult for [hiring managers] to source, attract and retain good quality IT&T staff, and the economic climate hasn’t impacted on that,” said Hudson’s director of IT&T, Shane Blandford. According to Hudson’s research, 69 percent of employers claim they are not affected by the economic downturn; however 42 percent said they continued to find sourcing candidates with appropriate skills difficult. Hudson’s research also suggests there is currently a shortage of software developers and business analysts in the marketplace, with an over-abundance of project managers and SAP professionals.

Both recruiters also spoke of the trend for IT contractors to seek permanent employment in this time of financial uncertainty.

“Some projects are being cancelled and some are on hold, in particular projects that were heavily reliant on the contractor workforce,” said Blandford. “So there potentially will be increased number of contractors coming into the employment pool.”

In the U.S. this week, Google acknowledged plans to “significantly” reduce the number of contractors it uses, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

In Australia however, Peoplebank’s Acheson said contractors will continue to play a critical role in IT and have an important part to play in both implementing new IT projects and supporting ongoing operations.

“IT is one of the sectors with the largest contracting workforce and I don’t think that’s going to change,” Acheson said. “I think IT contracting over time will continue to be a substantial proportion of the future of IT going forward.” While Acheson acknowledged that there’s a natural predisposition for companies to consider contractors during periods of economic uncertainty, due to their greater flexibility over permanent employees, he urged CIOs to boost their employees confidence to avoid them fleeing the nest.

“I think in the current environment it’s really important that CIO’s are talking to their staff about the outlook and where they see the business going in 2009 — and what the key projects and initiatives are that the company they work for is going to be investing in — to shore-up people so they feel comfortable and confident about their futures.”

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