Hot IT job areas in a recession ravaged market

Pickings remain pretty slim in the recession-ravaged Canadian IT jobs market, but there could be a few gems for those who know what to look for.

Companies haven’t exactly flung their doors wide open to job hunters.

Still tech professionals should keep their eyes peeled for IT fields that survived the economic downturn and are even expected to thrive within the next few years, says Stuart Crawford, vice-president of development at Calgary-based BulletProof Infotech.

Crawford’s firm provides business and IT advice and support.   

“It’s definitely not a jobseeker’s market,” he said. “Many organizations are just starting to recover from the economic blow but it’s not a complete wipe out.”  

Recently, when BulletProof hired a person for an entry level IT sales position, Crawford noted that he company took its time in picking a desirable candidate.

“Two years ago, we would have taken the first person that walked in the door because talent was tight. Today it’s the complete opposite and we can afford to take our time.”  

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Hiring demand starts to percolate across Canada

Many Canadian firms began freezing hiring activities and putting projects on hold as the cold clutches of the recession took hold of the local IT industry by fall last year, according to Barnaby Jeans, developer audience marketing manager at Microsoft Canada.

Many companies expect to gain momentum this fall and are confident that by early 2010 their businesses will begin showing some growth, said Jeans.

Various surveys suggest that this September will mark the turnaround month for many businesses.

For example, demand for IT positions are expected to grow over the next quarter – and this trend will carry into 2010, according to a recent survey by Sapphire Technologies Canada and IBM Canada Ltd.

Eighty seven per cent of more than 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.

The increased demand 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, the survey indicates. Applications that will “attract the most attention” include .Net (27 per cent) and Java (25 per cent), the survey said.

Jeans and Crawford see continuing job opportunities in the following four areas:

1. IT Support services – There may be fewer openings available but demand for traditional IT services will never disappear. Demand for professionals with knowledge of or experience in wireless and network technologies will continue to increase as people become increasingly dependent on such devices. The growing number of computer users in is also expected to prop up computer and software support positions.

2. Software vendors – Many companies continue to look to software to reduce costs. This means software vendors are likely to maintain existing software developers or hire new talent, Crawford said.

3. Cloud computing – Cost cutting, productivity and flexibility continue to push cloud computing adoption in companies. As cloud computing and hosted services gain more mainstream acceptance, many firms will be seek cloud computing expertise. Cloud computing, said Crawford, will likely remain in high demand for the next five years.

4. Compliance and regulation – The recession failed to put a damper on regulatory requirements. If anything, governments and industry bodies have become stricter in making sure businesses comply with legislation and industry regulations.

Sarbanes-Oxley, Canada’s PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) and other industry regulations will deepen the need for IT advisors and consultants proficient in these areas, said Crawford. He said companies want to ensure their assets are protected and business remains on the right side of the law.

The key to maintaining an edge in the IT job market, Jeans said, is to keep skills and industry contacts fresh. “IT professionals need to continually hone their skills and acquire new ones because technology is always changing.”

Jeans is involved in TechDays, a series of Canada-wide intensive skills training events for developers and IT professionals.

The event, which kicks off  Sept. 14, will be held in Toronto, Montreal Ottawa, Halifax, Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

While employed, IT professionals can take advantage of company-backed training opportunities, while those between jobs can use the free time to learn new skills, Jeans said.

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