IT hiring expected to grow over next 3 months

Good news is on the horizon for IT pros. According to a new survey from Sapphire Technologies Canada and IBM Canada Ltd. on hiring intentions in the IT sector, demand for IT positions is expected to grow over the next quarter and carry into the upcoming year.

Eighty seven per cent of over 300 directors, vice-presidents and CIOs surveyed across Canada expect to maintain or increase their IT staffing levels over the next quarter. Forty nine per cent expect staffing to stay the same, while 38 per cent anticipate new hires.

Of the respondents planning to increase their IT staff, 37 per cent expect to hire full-time permanent positions, 21 per cent expect to hire contractors and 37 per cent expect to hire a combination of both.

The increase in demand for IT staff is attributed to the installation of new enterprise-wide applications (26 per cent); increased workload (23 per cent); increased customer/end user support (16 per cent); and organizational growth (15 per cent).

Application development and infrastructure technology will become key skills, suggests the survey. Applications that will “attract the most attention” include .Net (27 per cent) and Java (25 per cent).

“Application development tops the list, with 33 per cent of respondents expecting IT staff increases citing it as a skill they will be looking for over the next quarter and into the following 12 months,” states the survey, conducted by The Verde Group.

Infrastructure technology skills follow second at 26 per cent, while 34 per cent of respondents reported plans to seek a combination of both.

Project managers and business analysts are expected to become key roles.

The survey also found talent requirements “vary according to size of organization.” Web development/design and desktop support skills are greater in small to mid-sized companies; network administration is the most sought-after skill in mid-sized companies; and larger companies see more value in IT security and telecommunication support, states the survey.

IT is one of the first industries to bounce back after a recession, according to Sapphire Canada.

“We tend to see technology take off in many cases ahead of other industries or other sectors and we are seeing it again,” said Sergio Mateus, president of Sapphire Canada. With over 21 years experience in the industry, Mateus has witnessed three recessions. In every case, this is “exactly what happens,” he said.

But the rise in full-time hires is an unexpected result, Mateus pointed out. “Traditionally, what we have seen coming out of slowdowns up to now is that contract hiring, the hiring of consultants, usually takes off before full time hiring. Here we are seeing the opposite,” he said.

Leading with full-time hires rather than contract hires is a very positive sign, according to Mateus, which indicates that organizations are more confident about what’s coming around the corner.

Most of the hiring will be for what is traditionally considered as the front-end positions within the development lifecycle of applications and projects, said Mateus. “It’s very much indicative of the taking off of new projects that for the most part have been put on the back pages of the plans through the recession,” he said.

The survey results are not only good news for the IT field, but indicative of a real turnaround in the Canadian economy, said Mateus. “This is a leading indicator or bellwether for what is to come in the future,” he said.

Jennifer Perrier-Knox, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., thinks it’s too soon in a post-recession economy to see big gains and big growth.

“Employment rates usually lag behind other economic indicators. They are usually several months behind, so even through the recession is over, the results of the recession are still playing out,” she said.

Perrier-Knox expects a lot of demand for certain job types and skills sets before the end of the year, but it depends on the industry. “I’m expecting things to hold steady. I’m not expecting a lot of growth … while layoffs aren’t happening as quickly as they were a couple of months ago, I think we are still going to see some of that,” she said.

The fact that the recession has officially been called over in Canada might be motivating people to present a positive outlook, Perrier-Knox suggested. “I think that makes people feel a little more on the optimistic side,” she said.

Out-tasking and staff augmentation is an important element of IBM’s Global Technology Services unit. “We have a fairly large out-tasking or staff augmentation business for our clients and one of our key partners in this space is Sapphire,” said Bob Wylie, director of server storage and hosting services for Global Technology Services at IBM.

What the survey suggests, from Wylie’s standpoint, is that companies are looking to restore or drive top-line revenue growth or restore health to their financials.

“Investments in top-line revenue growth tends to drive new innovative projects … [which] tend to be on new emerging technologies. As a result, when you see the companies drawing new growth, there tends to be a big IT project-related component to those innovative approaches,” said Wylie.

The survey also looked at offshoring trends. “Offshoring and nearshoring are most pronounced among large corporations and in Quebec, where incidences approach or exceed the 50 per cent mark. In fact, Quebec-based companies are twice as likely to offshore and nearshore as the rest of the country,” states the survey.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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