Today’s hot IT skills and five tips for acquiring them

The Web 2.0 phenomenon and developments in the enterprise resource planning (ERP) space will trigger a demand for a new set of IT skills.

Technology headhunters and industry insiders say IT professionals should be building expertise in tools such as .Net, Microsoft’s Dynamics NAV ERP software product, PHP (a scripting language for producing dynamic Web pages), and the current version of Java Enterprise Edition.

“Skills in .Net applications are going to be very hot over the in the next two to three years,” according to Tao Qiu, recruiting manager for technology training and specialized staffing firm Robert Half in Toronto.

Qiu was a speaker in a peer discussion meeting Tuesday night by members of the Toronto chapter of the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS).

CIPS members and other IT professionals shared their views on hiring trends.

Qiu said about 60 per cent of companies approaching them for IT talent are looking for particular skills in .Net, a key software component of the Microsoft Windows operating system.

The .Net framework is being used by most new Windows-based applications. Qiu believes demand for this skill will go up to 75 per cent within the next three years.

With Microsoft’s recent release of its new ERP tool Dynamic NAV (previously Navision), Qiu also predicts many enterprises will intensify their search for NAV-proficient talent.

“There’s a big push for this ERP tool in the market. Unfortunately not a lot of people are trained in using the new Microsoft package in Canada.”

Demand for skills in various networking tools and dynamic Web applications is growing because the adoption by businesses of Web 2.0 technology is heating up, according to David Lundquist, communications director of CIPS and a Toronto-based Web applications engineer. Lundquist is also principal strategist for in Toronto.

“A quick survey of the Toronto IT job market using craigslist will show that .Net, PHP and Java2EE are the top skills companies are looking out for.”

Lundquist observes a growing trend among Toronto firms to jump on the Web 2.0 bandwagon by snapping up young developers who can help them produce dynamic sites

“Everyone wants to be Web 2.0 enabled. There’s a lot of emphasis on graphic user interfaces but backend security is being sacrificed for glitz.”

Growing adoption of unified messaging (UM)by government and the corporate world is also going to bump up demand for messaging administrators, he said.

Igor Abramovitch, division director for Robert Half in Toronto agrees.He said a recent Canada-wide Robert Half survey of CIOs indicates that companies are looking for workers skilled in:

  • AJAX, a group of development tools for creating Web applications;
  • Flash, and Adobe-based technology for adding animation and interactivity to Web pages; and,
  • Active Scripting (formerly ActiveXScripting), a technology used in Windows to implement component-based scripting support.

“The trend is to create dynamic Web pages that change or update without the need for refreshing the page,” Abramovitch said.

Among the top positions Canadian CIOs want fill are: network administrators, messaging experts, software developers and application developers, he said.

“With the adoption of UM, people [familiar with] VoIP (voice over Internet protocol), ActiveDirectory and Exchange are going to be in demand,” the Robert Half executive said.

One key concern of IT professionals was how they could upgrade current skills in the face of existing job pressures or budgetary constraints.

IT professionals can always try going back to school or taking certification courses but the speakers and CIPS members also had the following advice:


If you’re working in one area of the industry, find assignments that will provide an opportunity for you to dip your toes into one of the emerging hot skills. Qiu calls this mushrooming. “For example, if you’re working in systems, applications and products, try gravitating towards ERP projects.”

Join user groups

Schools are not always up-to-date on the latest “must have” tech courses. User groups are often a better source of information. “These organizations are made up of people in the trenches – developers who already know what’s working and what’s not. They’re a valuable source of data on finding out what skills to develop,” said Lundquist.

Snoop around developer sites

Let your fingers do the walking. Check out developer Web sites and blogs top get a sense of what’s hot or what new tools might be coming out from vendors.

Find a job in the field you want

You can start out signing up for small freelance assignments that don’t require much expertise or jobs that could pair you with an expert in the field. Networks you build by snooping around developer sites, user groups and associations would be of great help here.

Build a business case for your education fund

Consult vendors on new tools they are building, ask experts about emerging trends. Then build a business case for why your employer should deploy these tools and why you are the person that should be sent out to train on the technology.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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