CIOs indicate IT hiring rebound

A Robert Half Technology survey showed 12 per cent of CIOs plan to hire full-time staff in the second quarter of this year, up marginally from the previous quarter.

“”I’m not going to throw a party here,”” said Stephen

Mill, regional manager for Robert Half Technology in Toronto, but “”we’ve held steady now for four quarters and it hasn’t declined,”” reflecting a normal cycle.

“”It’s busier today than it was at the start of the year. When we look forward to Q2 and Q3 of 2004 particularly, I think we’re going to see an even more vibrant hiring environment.””

For the past few years, in comparison, Robert Half found double-digit percentage of companies anticipated reductions.

The firm’s Information Technology Hiring Index and Skills Report — which also revealed 87 per cent of survey respondents plan to maintain their staff level and one per cent will cut the number of employees — reflected responses from more than 270 chief information officers from Canadian companies employing 100 or more people.

Business expansion continues to be the main reason fuelling IT hires, cited by 45 per cent more CIOs than in last quarter’s survey. In the past, Mill said, weak revenue growth has delayed hiring, forcing companies to resort to “”Band-Aid solutions — you know, tape and string and paper clips to hold existing system-wide, enterprise-wide applications in place.””

For the second consecutive business quarter, networking — which Mill said “”doesn’t sound like it’s the most critical, hard-to-find skill”” — is experiencing the most robust growth, mentioned by 28 per cent. He said networking is likely the most sought-after tech specialty because of the growth of desk-top upgrading.

Internet/intranet development was described as the second most popular job category by 15 per cent of respondents, while help desk/end-user support weighed in at 13 per cent.

Surveying the landscape of technical skills, 77 per cent of CIOs reported they need Microsoft Windows (NT/2000/XP) administrators, 50 per cent said SQL Server administration was lacking and 26 per cent said firewall administration was in scarce supply.

CIOs in the business services and professional services sectors were the most bullish on hiring, with 18 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively, planning to boost staff. Numbers from the business services industry, covering companies like advertising and personnel services, were seven percentage points above the national average for all industries. Professional services companies include engineering and accounting firms.

Part of the hiring optimism of these two sectors, particularly finance firms, stemmed from audit processes that investor rules like Sarbanes-Oxley require, explained Mill. As a result of these laws, companies need the human resources to input and maintain these financial and IT systems.

Headhunter Herbert Hess, president of Hess Associates Executive Search in Toronto, noted more IT hiring activity in natural resource industries like forestry and mining than in sectors like finance.

“”It looks as though the banks — they’re consolidating the back-end processing, and they’re doing a lot of outsourcing,”” Hess said. Retailers are not seeing dramatic growth, but there’s “”definitely an uptick.””

Another trend Hess has observed is a big demand for people with interactive voice response software programming experience — “”not the current generation, but the next generation. I think when some of the users cut back on IT staffing, they may have cut too far when it came to telecommunications. And I think that’s where the rebound is coming from.””

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