Canadian IT staffing company CNC Global released on Thursday a hiring trend report that shows that IT professionals are much in demand-although there may not be enough to go around.

The report showed that 2006 saw a 14 per cent increase in the demand for IT professionals from 2005. Vice-president of marketing Chris Drummond said, “It’s partly due to the strong economy. Canadian businesses are doing very well these days, and IT plays a huge role in all businesses, so there is an increased need for them.”

While there might be a huge demand for IT professionals, according to CNC Global president and COO Terry Power, there are definitely some IT staffing issues that businesses have to deal with. The booming economy has inspired enterprising IT staff to shop their resumes around, causing increased turnover. There is also the problem of the baby boomers. “The demographics are about to become a challenge. Many people are scheduled to retire,” said Power.

Another problem, according to Power, is declining interest among university students to go into the IT field. “After the dot-com bust, the last four to five years have seen a disillusionment with the IT industry. Offshoring is also on the front-end of discussion,” said Power. He has seen the industry long since recover and, due to the booming economy, offshoring become less of a threat, but universities haven’t caught up and are not advocating IT as a viable option.

Those who have embraced the IT profession are benefiting-demand for permanent staff increased by 30 per cent over the last year, according to Drummond, a fact he attributes to companies in strong economies feeling optimistic and wanting to find and retain quality people.

But why should an IT professional stick with a permanent gig when they can get a better placement? The increased turnover has resulted in companies having to shape up their hiring regimens. “People used to take three to four weeks to hire somebody, while today someone could have five different offers at one point in time-(the companies) are changing their hiring processes so that they’re now quicker,” said Power. IT professionals are capitalizing on the need for talent by embracing contract work, which, said Drummond, affords them both more money and freedom.

“High-level project managers and business system managers especially are seeing greater opportunities in contract work and are going back to it. In this strong economy, more businesses want those skills,” said Drummond.

The report found that employers are indeed keen to land IT professionals with business sense and front-end Web developers who can make the company’s Web site really work for the company-some of the most sought-after IT staff are those with management skills, senior-level web developers, senior project managers, business analysts, and quality assurance specialists. “Long gone are the days of the 25-year gold watch,” according to Power, who said that contract work’s popularity can also be traced to the fact that it shows business-sense-hungry employers that one can manage multiple projects and pick up at a moment’s notice and complete IT initiatives.

This echoes the findings of a survey released this past summer by Robert Half Technology, which, said Robert Half Technology’s division director of consulting services Igor Abramovitch, found that 43 per cent of the 270 CIOs surveyed said they placed more emphasis on having knowledge of Canadian business fundamentals than they did five years ago. “Four or five years ago, IT was the business. Now, instead of being the revenue-generating part of the business, there’s been a shift to IT supporting the business,” he said. “Companies now need people who know the typical issues of the business the company is in and at least a little bit about the company so that they can support it.” And no matter what their business acumen, the money’s rolling in regardless, according to Abramovitch-their soon-to-be-announced 2007 salary survey found that there is a projected 3.5 per cent increase in the IT professional’s average starting salary.

IT professionals all over the country (not just in the technological hub of the GTA) are raking in the cash-the survey found that the boom out West in Alberta and British Columbia is affecting IT professionals, but those in the Maritimes are benefiting as well. Drummond said that demand for IT services has allowed many of the IT professionals originally forced to move to the GTA for work to return home.

The wealth of work is indeed a plus for CNC Global’s clients, yet both Drummond and Power are concerned about the increasing gap between supply and demand. Abramovitch said that 22 per cent of CIOs surveyed said they planned to expand their IT department in the first quarter of 2007, but will there be enough IT professionals to fill those spots?

Power suggests that businesses need to be more flexible with hiring immigrants-despite the occasional language barrier, he said, their skills are valuable and should be utilized. Drummond, too, encourages businesses to be more proactive in solving the hiring gap.

“Businesses have to get more involved with education. They need to convey their needs (to universities) and help determine curriculum, and develop internship programs to show young people that these days it’s great to be in IT,” he said.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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