Less work, more workers squeeze IT job market

IT professionals are finding it hard to secure employment as the IT job market struggles to recover, according to the results of a Computerworld Quickpoll.

A whopping 58 per cent of respondents said it is harder to find a job compared to six months ago, while 32 per cent said the IT job market is unchanged. For 10 per cent of respondents it is easier to find a job than it was six months ago.

Michael Robinson, national manager IT, Mission Australia, said it is harder for IT professionals to find work because "genuine professionals now have to prove themselves much more [and show they are] not to be one of the cowboys".

"There have been and continue to be, too many cowboys who have ruined the industry for the honest professionals. People who have milked businesses, people who didn't understand the technology or the hype have made companies wary of all IT professionals. There are definitely a lot of IT people out there with an over-inflated sense of their own self-worth," Robinson said.

Meanwhile Valda Berzins, CIO, Australia Post, believes the IT job market is about the same as it was six months ago.

An IT manager from a financial company who requested anonymity said a quality IT professional with valuable skills could find work in less than 24 hours three years ago.

"Six months ago it might have taken three to six weeks of dedicated looking. I think that has not changed, and today it would still take between three to six weeks of determined effort to land a good job. Luck plays a significant factor nowadays, as does knowing the right people."

Ross Greenwood, managing director of Woodbine Associates, said from a candidate perspective it is extremely difficult to secure a position.

"This is the worst situation in our 14 years in IT recruitment."

Reflecting on the Melbourne and Sydney markets only, Greenwood said there are clearly more jobs available now than there were late last year, and materially more candidates are successfully being placed in jobs now than in the last quarter of 2001.

However, Greenwood said it is still difficult to find a job because there are now more potential candidates for each position, and the competition to secure each vacant position is stronger.

Greenwood said the demand for IT people has already picked up strongly from the low point last year, but he believes it will take at least 12 months to clear the pool of unemployed waiting to find work if the current level of demand continues.

"The market is usually slow at the end of the financial year so there is not likely to be a lift before July 2002. It is my guess that it will only improve slightly then. We are hoping that it will pick up a bit next year, say February 2003," he said.

Berzins also sees the market looking up in 18 months to two years.

An IT manager from the government sector predicts the market will pick up in six to 12 months.

"There's still a lot of immaturity around the Web services world; commitment has been in fits and starts, technology has changed a great deal in the last 24 months. The instability with vendors doesn't help either, as with Compaq and HP," he said.

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