Finally, some stability to the IT job market?

No news could be considered good news, at least on the IT hiring front.

According to Robert Half Technology’s (formerly RHI Consulting) latest quarterly hiring index, 15 per cent of executives surveyed plan to expand their IT departments

in the coming months while four per cent are expecting to make cutbacks.

“It’s probably the first two quarters in a row that we’ve seen it remain stable,” says Stephen Mill, regional manager for Robert Half Technology, based in Toronto. “We’ve been tracking this since Q2 2000. We have dropped from as high as 25 to 28 per cent to as low as where we are now.

“It’s no different than anything else related to information technology,” he adds. “You have to be specific, that’s why think it’s important to peel it back a bit and see where we’re getting a positive response.”

Professional services is expected to lead all industries in technology hiring in the fourth quarter. “We did see professional services take a nice jump up,” says Mill. According to the survey, 26 per cent of CIOs at these firms plan to expand their technology departments, while only one per cent expect staff cutbacks. “That’s good news. That could bode well for job hunters. Professional services has been pretty active in overall hiring, and I think technology hiring has lagged a bit.”

Overall, 80 per cent of CIOs are planning to maintain existing staff levels. The results are based on responses from 270 CIOs from a random sampling of Canadian companies with 100 or more employees.

Mill adds that a lot of companies are relying on contract workers to complete projects. “The fixed expense side of hiring is still under scrutiny but that project has to go on.”

Herbert Hess of Hess Associates Executive Search in Toronto which has doing recruitment both at the high level and lower levels, says the IT job market is relatively static. “Fifteen per cent is not a tremendous increase … we’re not talking a 15 per cent increase in the workforce.”

Hess says the hiring that is taking place is not happening at the big corporations, such as banks and other financials firms, rather, it’s happening at the medium-sized organizations.

“The big organizations are still doing a little attrition,” says Hess. “They’re not cutting back as dramatically as they did in the earlier part of the year, but they’re still sort of trimming. The big ones are doing minimal in terms of hiring.”

That professional services firms are increasing their hiring stands to reason, says Hess, as most of them are consulting companies — CGI, for examples, which comes to a customer in an outsourcing relationship to save them money. “They may acquire some of their client’s staff but then they may add a couple of people in addition to that.”

Unlike Mill, Hess doesn’t seem much activity in the contracting area from where he’s sitting. “Contract (work) has really gone down dramatically. If they the hiring is not going on at the permanent level, you would normally see a lot temporary work going on because normally people have the budget but not the head count. We don’t see that happening.”

What he does agree with is that IT job hunters need to groom themselves for particular jobs, specifically in vertical markets that are booming, such as construction and lumber or even the automobile sector, which is doing reasonably well, or that require specific skill sets, such as data warehousing or project management.

But gone are the days of three or four years ago where the mantra was “if the body is warm, hire it,” he says. “There are a lot more people available now.

“We’ve seen a lot worse than this,” says Hess, who have been in the recruitment game more than 25 years. “I’ve been in the business where every single company says it’s in a hiring freeze.”

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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