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RealTime IT News

A Dearth in Demand for IT Professionals

Programmers, network and database administrators and IT executives of all levels have faced a difficult labor market following the dot-com bust and new scrutiny over capital expenditures and might have better job prospects north of the U.S. border, according to two studies released Monday.

But companies that continue to trim IS department budgets (normally hashed out before the beginning of a new year) face the risk of putting their in-house operations in jeopardy, said Diane Tunick Morello, vice president and research director for the workforce and workplace at Garner.

"We expect demand to pick up by the end of the year and those companies are going to have to watch out," she said. "As business picks up, IS departments are going to be running leaner as they try to pick up that increased demand."

In the short-term, Morello said, outsourcing companies are the key beneficiaries of these low-demand times, but the need to bring operations in-house will prompt more IT hiring.

As evidence, Oxford Health Plans of Trumbull, Conn., last week recalled its IT staff, canceling a five-year, $195 million outsourcing deal with Computer Sciences Corp.

Due to a dearth of demand for IT workers, the high-tech workforce dropped by 500,000 in 2001 to 9.9 million workers, a 5-percent reduction from 10.4 million in 2000, according to the Information Technology Association of America report.

The first to go in many corporations were tech support divisions, according to the report, which saw an overall 15 percent reduction in IT jobs while only 4 percent of non-IT positions were scaled back. However, programmers were still in demand throughout 2001, a caveat the report's authors found encouraging.

"This is obviously a good news/bad news report for IT workers," said Harris Miller, ITAA president. "Revenue growth in the IT industry stalled in the past year, and now we know that IT employment has actually lost ground."

To be sure, the Arlington, Va.-based trade association still tried to put an upbeat spin on today's bleak survey results, entitling the report "Bouncing Back: Jobs, Skills and the Continuing Demand for IT Workers."

ITAA expects 500,000 new hires in 2002; those with previous experience and/or certifications (i.e. Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers or Cisco Certified Professionals) will have priority over fresh college graduates.

It also expects 600,000 jobs to go unfulfilled out of the 1.1 million potential jobs available, attributable to a lack of quality potential hires in 2002. "We think the situation will be short lived, with employers filling positions they were forced to cut in the recession," Miller explained. "We have seen a bubble burst...but the digital economy is here to say."

Meanwhile, the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) reported that a survey finds IT workers might have better leverage in Canada.

ITAC commissioned IDC Canada and Aon Consulting to conduct a survey, which predicts that 38,000 IT jobs will be added in 2002, potentially creating a gap of approximately 9,900 unfilled positions. There had been a surplus of IT workers in 2001.

"We've learned that with the downturn in the economy and in our industry, the shortage problem abated briefly. But it looks like we've had a very short respite. The skills shortage will be back with us very soon," said Gaylen Duncan, Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) president.