Networking talent, help desk staff and database specialists are among the top positions Canadian CIOs will fill during a projected 12 per cent hiring increase in the fourth quarter of this year.

According to a random survey of 276 CIOs from companies with 100 or more employees, 17 per cent of corporate enterprises will be adding IT staff in the last three months of the year. RHI Consulting, which conducted the survey for its IT Hiring Index, said the increase was still four percentage points down from the previous quarter’s forecasts, though only five per cent of those surveyed anticipated additional reductions.

Steven Mill, senior regional manager in RHI’s Toronto office, said the demand for networking employees comes from implementation and maintenance work. While technology spending may have gone down in many enterprises, Mill said many organizations are still trying to make the best use of their existing resources to exploit e-commerce and supply-chain efficiency opportunities.

“If they’ve gone out in the past nine months and bought a lot of companies and integrating a lot of systems, they have to get that in order now,” he said. “Maybe there won’t be so many new projects, it will be cleaning up what they have in place.”

Help desk staff, meanwhile, are a key element to successful customer retention strategies, added Mill, which will become more important given the current economic climate.

“When my customers call, from a service perspective, that’s where I can make or break my future with that client,” he said.

RHI said much of the demand will come from financial services firms, insurance and real estate. Other bright spots include wholesale and professional services, where CIOs indicated hiring increases of 20 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively.

“They seem to have the most active list of projects,” Mill said. “Financial services are very stable and solid, and our information would indicate it’s full speed ahead from a hiring process.”

Some corporate enterprises may have maintained a policy of “overhiring” during the boom times, which is where a lot of downsizing and fallout has taken place. Mill calls these people the less-critical components of an IT team.

“When you talk at the senior programmer or project manager level, not many people have let those folks go,” he said. “Those people are still very marketable. And perhaps they’re less likely to make a move. That can also exert pressure on the supply side.”

Economic conditions have also prompted a renewed interest in the outsourcing of IT functions. Mill said most schedule A banks have some degree of outsourced IT services set up already. This offers a more smooth delivery of service while letting enterprises be more specialized and strategic in terms of how they deploy their internal resources.” It allows there to be a centrallized focus similar to how perhaps a sales force is focused or a human resources department is,” he said. “It becomes an internal client relationship as opposed to a peer-to-peer relationship.”

Mill said it would be a mistake to confuse the collapse of the dot-com industry to the rest of the market, where there has been more stability.

“There isn’t the same uptick that we’re experiencing, because it never went down,” he said. “A lot of companies, even in the industries we’re specifying here have been, in some cases, behind the hiring curve.”

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