Despite recession, many IT posts still difficult to fill

CIOs and security executives looking to add IT staff in the coming months say they are challenged to fill positions, despite the recession and unemployment statistics.

In the U.S., survey data from ISC-squared and Robert Half Technology shows hiring managers are still trying to fill IT positions, and in some cases, without a lot of success.

Eight per cent of CIOs plan to add IT staff, while 6 per cent are expecting to cut back personnel, according to Robert Half Technology’s third-quarter hiring survey of 1,400 CIOs.

The majority, 85 per cent, intend to maintain current staff levels.

In Canada, right now there continues to be a demand for senior business analysts, senior project managers, and systems architects, said Dave O’Brien, eastern Canada vice-president, Eagle Professional Resources Inc. in an interview with

“Those kinds of positions aren’t as vulnerable to offshoring as jobs involving testing and coding,” said O’Brien who keeps his pulse on the shifting IT hiring practices of hundreds of businesses across the country.

On the issue of “hot skills” though, there are significant demographic variations, with senior management in various regions across Canada adopting very different approaches.

For instance, in Vancouver and Victoria, where many employers are being cautious and putting big projects on hold, in-demand skills are Siebel, quality assurance (QA), and customer relationship management (CRM), said Eagle CEO Kevin Dee in a blog post.

In Calgary, he said, major projects are also being put on hold and many contractors are becoming available. Pockets of hiring activity here are for roles such as business analysts (BA) and project managers (PM), and people with SharePoint, and LiveLink skills.

“Edmonton’s hot jobs are for Oracle, BA, and PM positions.” That city, he said, is still seeing many government RFPs for IT positions, but far fewer opportunities are coming out as “live orders.”

Regina’s IT market is still relatively strong due to government and crown corporations, Dee said. Hiring there remains consistent, with fewer job cuts, and “hot” skill sets include BAs and PMs.

In sharp contrast, Winnipeg is “very slow” with limited investment in new IT projects, and many organizations focusing on maintaining systems and infrastructure.

In-demand jobs within the Winnipeg market include network administrators, help desk analysts, and business analysts.

In the Canadian IT jobs market, the first five months of 2009 have been particularly tough.

However, surveys suggest that the overall situation and mood within Canada’s IT sector may be far better than it is in the U.S. — until recently at least.

Technisource’s IT Employee Confidence Index shows that U.S. IT professionals’ confidence in the economy, the job market and their employers’ futures hit a new low during the first quarter of 2009.

Just six per cent of tech workers polled thought the economy was improving, while two-thirds (66 per cent) said it continues to deteriorate.

U.S.-based IT workers were even more pessimistic about the job market. Nearly 80 per cent believed fewer IT jobs are available. Only seven per cent of American IT professionals saw more job opportunities.

But indications are the tide may be beginning to shift, however slowly.

“Companies are adding staff at a steady but moderate pace,” said David Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology.

“Managers are watching budgets closely and concentrating hiring activity on customer-facing roles such as help desk and desktop support.”

Close to three-quarters of CIOs reported that network administration, both LAN and WAN, skills were in demand.

About 70 per cent indicated they needed desktop support skills, and 68 per cent listed Windows administration as the most sought after skills in their IT departments now.

Sixteen percent of CIOs indicated that networking was the job area experiencing the most growth, followed by help desk and technical support with 15 per cent of CIOs seeing growth in those areas.

Just over 10 per cent of CIOs said application development is an area experiencing growth.

Separate survey data from ISC-squared shows that of the more than 2,800 professionals worldwide polled 44 per cent of the 775 with hiring responsibilities are looking to hire more IT security staff this year.

Among the area of expertise hiring managers seek are operations security, information risk management, access control systems and methodology, applications and systems development security, and security management practices.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of unemployed persons increased by 563,000 to 13.7 million in April 2009, and the unemployment rate rose to 8.9 per cent.

Over the past 12 months, the number of unemployed persons has risen by 6 million, and the unemployment rate has grown by 3.9 percentage points.

Yet 80 per cent of those queried by ISC-squared said “they are challenged in their efforts to find the right candidate.”

Concerns listed include a lack of desired skills, a lack of available professionals in the area and salary demands too high considering available budgets.

Nearly 72 per cent said their information security budgets had been cut between October 2008 and March 2009 and about half polled by ISC-squared said their information security staff had experienced at least one lay off in the past few months.

Looking ahead, 62 per cent said they didn’t expect an additional budget cuts and 9 per cent anticipated an increase in their security budgets.

Nearly 60 per cent didn’t expect any further security personnel staff for the remainder of the year, according to ISC-squared.

“Companies may be tempted to make rash security decisions in their panic to cut costs,” said W. Hord Tipton, executive director ISC-squared.

“Organizations are advised to proactively analyze how cuts affect their risk profile and avoid costly repercussions resulting from breaches and mandated reparations.”


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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