Whatever happened to entry-level IT jobs?

IT managers and CIOs are still looking for skilled employees among newly graduated engineering students, but experts say the skills in demand no longer pertain to the traditional programming jobs that were popular in the late 1990s.

Research firm Robert

Half Technologies recently published a study on the current labour market that showed 88 per cent of current corporations need Windows administrators. Companies also require Visual Basic developers and Cisco administrators — jobs that require specific training not offered in Canada’s engineering programs. This leaves students scouring to find any positions, while companies look for more experienced workers on the market.

“”Most companies are not going to go and hire brand-new administrators. They are going to go project-based or consulting-based,”” said Stephen Mill, who worked on the study.

Gilles Delisle, director for the School of Information Technology and Engineering at the University of Ottawa, explained that training for system administrator positions is mostly found in colleges and are not requirements in the university curriculum.

“”There is no interest to form these types of people in university. It’s not our role,”” he said. “”We do not want to compete with the college diploma.””

For entry-level positions in a highly competitive job market, companies are looking for graduate students with diversified base knowledge and skills, as opposed to candidates who have no extracurricular experience.

“”What was the traditional entry-level positions are disappearing off shore. The aptitude (now) is melting the knowledge of some business with information technology,”” said Paul Swinwood, president of the Software Human Resource Council, who also suggested students look into combining their IT education with the banking or medical sector to be a better competitor when they apply for jobs.

Eric Poulin, a resources manager at Cognos, said the company has a mandate to ensure there is a balance in the experience level of their employees. Cognos is always eager to take on graduating students into entry-level positions, when an opening occurs.

“”A good company long term is going to have a different mix of employees. You need young and veteran players,”” he said.

Although Cognos would not disclose the exact number of entry-level positions that were filled in the past year, the company continues to aggressively hire students, he said. Poulin also added that Cognos looks for candidates who encompass knowledge, leadership and productivity while gaining expertise in the IT field through community-related volunteering where contacts can be developed.

“”There are different ways to gain experience through the community or through school, it’s just about getting involved,”” he said. “”The important think is networking. Just going out there and meet people.””

The SHRC has recently commissioned Stats Canada to research the IT industry in the private and public sector. Companies were sent out a questionnaire in order to assess what are the current trends in education, training, background and salaries. Although SHRC is expecting the results in January, evidence shows the job market has not grown stale.

“”The interesting thing is contrary to popular opinion, the IT sector has not died,”” Swinwood said. “”The number of jobs that have been lost have been in the telecommunications sector and a lot of places like that. But jobs that have replaced have been in manufacturing and government.””

Swinwood added that the average number of employment positions in Canada has been successfully hovering around 550,000 in the past 18 months.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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