Employers clamouring for IT-business combo skills


Web developers and e-commerce specialists are the hottest positions, accounting for about 25 per cent demand at the national level.

That’s one of the key findings of a Canada-wide IT hiring trends tracking report recently released by CNC Global, a Toronto-based IT recruiting firm.

This reflects a shift away from infrastructure projects towards front-end development of Web-based applications that can help drive more customers to the business, says Terry Power, president of CNC Global.

Technical skills companies are clamouring for reflect this shift and include: Java, SQL, J2EEE, Oracle and Unix. Candidates with these technical skills aren’t hard to find, but companies are demanding candidates with combination skills.

This is becoming a real challenge for CNC Global, says Christopher Drummond, the company’s vice-president of marketing. “What we’re seeing is more requirements for combinations of new technology skills with legacy skills,” he says. “Companies are looking for a lot in the same individual – technical, communication and business skills – and it becomes challenging when you try to mix them.”

A retail company that wants to make it easier for its customers to do business with them, for example, may want an IT professional with Java skills to handle the logistical piece, but the company will also want that person to have knowledge about how customers act and what they want.

Historically, companies had staff with defined business roles interfacing with technical staff, but now they want individuals who can handle both roles, explains Power.

The top four industry sectors are financial services, telecommunications, system integration and resources such as oil, mining and forestry, he says. “In the telecom category, demand is strongest in the telcos themselves, as opposed to companies that supply them.”

There is also strong demand in the SMB sector, which is expanding, says Drummond. These companies tend to be nimbler and quicker, and are competing for the best people. “They are often first to grab the top skills, and they are actually making it harder for larger organizations to compete because they adjust to the business environment more quickly.”

Demand for staff with mainframe skills is patchy, says Power. It is strong in certain markets such as Vancouver and is one of the factors contributing to growth in that region. “But this tends to go in cycles. We see significant demand from time to time, but we haven’t seen it across the country, only in certain regions.”

On the open source front, demand is also a bit complicated. About five to 10 per cent of overall demand is for staff with Linux skills, says Power. But in keeping with the combo trend, companies tend to want people with traditional skills, with Linux as an added extra.

“A lot of companies want to try Linux but they just want dip their toes so they don’t need experts,” says Drummond. “Our larger customers, in particular, are seldom willing to commit whole-heartedly to Linux-based capabilities.”

Linux’s appeal is strongest with SMB companies that are looking to create competitive advantage, but can’t afford a mainstream system.

The demand is also mounting in sectors such as gaming and entertainment, Drummond adds.

For more on Canada’s IT job market don’t miss our IT Labour Market Special: What’s hot, what’s not we’ve put together especially for you.

Related link:Find IT Careers here

Related article: IT job market sizzles across Canada


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