IT offshoring has not hurt demand for network skills

"These aren't the kinds of skills that you can outsource to an offshore location," says head of SHRC

Businesses are shying away from making large-scale information technology investments, opting instead for incremental tweaks to the infrastructures they’ve already got, said IT research house IDC Canada in a labour market survey released last month.

No longer in high demand are implementers of large-scale entreprise-wide systems like Oracle and SAP, said Paul Swinwood, president of the Software Human Resource Council, the sector council that commissioned the study.

Most businesses went through these implementations at the same time they tackled the Y2K bug, he said. “So we’ve seen a drop off of new companies implementing these systems, and this is confirmed by a drop off in Oracle sales and SAP sales.”

The survey of 414 organizations found the 10 most sought-after skills to be: TCP/IP, Windows XP, Windows 2000/ME, security skills, Microsoft SQL server, wide area network (WAN), ethernet, Microsoft Exchange, routing and Microsoft Access.

The list has remained relatively constant over the last couple of years, said Swinwood. Networking skills, particularly security skills, should remain in high demand in the next few years, he added.

“These aren’t the kinds of skills that you can outsource to an offshore location,” said Swinwood.

Contrary to popular perception, the IT sector hasn’t been contracting but growing from about 425,000 working professionals in March 2000 to 550,000 in January of this year, he noted.

“Where it has been hit the hardest has been in the development of IT products. But the actual number of people employed has gone up right across Canada.”

On the recruiting front line, people see things differently, however. Jay Parmar, a recruiter at Opensoft Inc, a Toronto-based IT placement agency, said there’s an oversupply of entry-level IT workers. There are more job orders for people at the intermediate level, he said, but even then, businesses often hold out for people who’ve had experience applying IT skills to specific business processes. “Nobody is interested in letting anyone learn on the job right now. That kind of attitude just isn’t out there.”

The only type of hi-tech worker in demand, said recruiter Julie Clark of Vancouver-based Corporate Recruiters, is the highly experienced IT professional who has the leadership skills “to leverage the return on investment they need out of their infrastructure,” said Clark.

“It’s for a very specific type of person who has both the technology and the soft skills.”

But at CNC Global, another Toronto IT placement firm, marketing director Chris Drummond said he’s getting requests for a broad cross-section of IT workers. Not only is he seeing an increase in turnover, but more candidates are now turning down jobs because they have multiple offers.

“I guess there has been a pent-up demand for a while. People haven’t hired for a while, and now they’re starting to hire again. They’re looking for people to come in and help them with projects that they’d been putting aside.”

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