Credit crunch? What cred-it crunch!

Forget the doom and gloom. One sector is not just bucking the trend; it’s positively turning it on its headIT is still buzzing. And most significantly for the recruitment industry, IT professionals continue to look long and hard at the jobs market.
What’s more, by the very nature of the industry and its inherent culture and skills base, this overwhelmingly means searching online.

When the going gets tough

The IT sector is continuing to prosper, despite calls of an economic downturn, with high calibre professionals now at a premium.
How can this be, when all around industries are shedding staff like autumn leaves?
Simple, really. As the going gets tough, the tough needs to keep going. And given the fundamental importance of IT to almost every organisation, this means investing even more in technology systems and personnel. IT is becoming valued as never before, with the tougher economic climate actually working in its favour.
To prove this fact, it’s been reported that as many as 50 per cent of IT directors plan to increase staffing levels over the next year. Just as they dare not compromise spending on crucial IT systems, the people who develop and maintain them are equally as integral to the business.
Downtime costs money, which has always been bad news. But during difficult economic times it can prove terminal, especially for smaller or more impulsive businesses.
This makes the right IT skills more crucial than ever, and in response, the industry is set to restructure itself at an even higher level. Employers will want to make the most of existing employees, as well as recruiting experienced, highly trained staff who can cope with the extra responsibility. In addition to permanent staff, some commentators also see contractors remaining in demand, at least in the short term.

Staying positive
Margaret Sambell, director of Strategy at E-Skills UK, the sector skills council, sums up the situation: “The extent to which IT is at the heart of companies today means that the effect on the workforce (of the downturn) may be less than it might have been some years ago.”
Carrie Hartnell, manager of Transformational Business at IT Trade Association Intellect, is similarly upbeat: “The credit crunch will certainly bring some changes... However, businesses are smarter these days and we have seen reports where companies such as HSBC have praised their technology system for reducing the impact of the credit crunch. I also believe that if the industry continues to manage to survive this period without too many scars, the impact will be hugely positive.”
There is a note of caution, though. Given the extra responsibility, it’s down to IT staff to show they can operate at this higher level. There will also be more pressure to demonstrate they have the most sought-after skills, possibly through recognised, independent qualifications.

On the up
With increased demand for first rate skills and a buoyant micro-economic environment, what inevitably happens? Salaries go up!
In IT today, companies are starting to hike up salaries to attract new talent and retain existing staff. As well as increasing permanent staff numbers over the next year, most senior IT personnel expect salaries to rise as employers hold on to what they’ve got.
According to a recent survey, more than half of IT directors agreed – with none predicting a fall in salaries for permanent staff.
There’s more good news, too. Contractors can look forward to further pay increases as well. It’s an interesting situation, as it’s been reported in some quarters that more and more IT staff are opting for higher-paid contract work. This trend could explain why IT directors are now becoming aware that they need to raise salaries for permanent staff.
Continuing the upbeat theme, 58 per cent of survey interviewees also plan to increase IT projects over the next 12 months. So clearly, confidence is definitely not in short supply!
However, in such market conditions there is always something of a downside. Concerns have been expressed about the difficulty of attracting candidates of the right calibre. Indeed, some commentators foresee acute shortages of candidates with key skills, such as internet and project management.

Specialist skills need recruitment specialists
All of which makes an overwhelming case for using recruitment specialists to find the right candidates, with the right skills, and at the right price. And an online one at that.
Significant user research carried out by leading IT specialist recruitment site found a massive 81 per cent of IT professionals are looking for their next career move on the net. A further 83 per cent said they use specialist industry job websites to do that, with 91 per cent of contactors echoing the fact.
With over 320,000 unique visitors each month, the stats show how users are searching for IT jobs across the full range of sectors and locations. This user group alone is generating more than  340,000 job applications for just 50,000 jobs.
And there’s more. 55 per cent of candidates have either a bachelor’s or master’s degree, which fits the industry trend towards the recruitment of higher calibre personnel. In the same vein, over half are already in full-time roles, with 49 per cent classing themselves as senior staff and 24 per cent earning between £20k and £40k.
Impressive statistics and a key insight into how IT, as a sector, is bucking the economic crisis all on its own. So as the famous proverb goes, every cloud has a silver lining. But the ‘credit crunch’ could well prove to have a golden one, for the IT and online recruitment industries alike.

About CWJobs, a contract and permanent online IT jobs specialist, is part of the Totaljobs Group. Founded in 1999, it is a leading player in the IT recruitment marketplace – boasting IT jobs from hundreds of top companies and recruitment consultancies across all skills and sectors throughout the UK and Ireland.

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