Ask IT managers about job prospects in the technology sector and they will say it has remained dismal for the past 12 months.
Applications services manager at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Wayne Barlow, attributes the tough conditions to a number of issues including the continuing fallout from the dotcom crash.
Barlow said there were quite a few "johnny come latelys" employed under the banner of Web specialist, who were really just super users that leapt into the IT industry; now they need to go back to whatever they were doing before.
He said various technologies have also "come of age" and plateaued.
"Network technologies, server technologies and security solutions are now clearer and more readily available, so specialists and consultants are not needed as much," he added.
"Some business functions -- such as finance and accounting -- have almost reached their limit as far as advantages that further automation can bring.
"It's almost as though we're waiting for the next big new wave of technological change -- perhaps it's voice recognition, holograms, robotics, nanotechnology?"
Barlow said an industry shakeout has seen small players disappear, leaving the big names such as Microsoft, IBM, HP, Oracle and Sun. "So there is less competition and fewer companies employing staff.
"The bottom line is that many IT people will change careers and leave IT forever. As with other professions, such as teaching, the feast will eventually become a famine as the demand for these people starts to return but the people are no longer in the industry. Then the cycle starts again . . ." Australian IT and telecommunications recruitment professionals agree it is an extremely depressed market with few job vacancies.
Faced with a large pool of unemployed IT professionals, the managing director of IT recruitment specialist Woodbine Associates, Ross Greenwood, said the pool of unemployed is typically well qualified, presentable and highly motivated, most of whom are professionals out of work for the first time in their professional life.
"Most IT managers think that the market is the worst it has ever been, and few are positive about the short-term prospects.
"In large companies most surviving staff are working under increased pressures of bigger workloads and threatened redundancies; staff turnover is low, but morale is not high."
Hot skills in 2003According to Kozmo Consulting for Michael Page International, these are:
* Hot specialist skills for the future: Wireless technologies, XML, storage, security, new development technologies such as Microsoft's .Net platform and J2EE; WebSphere, ERP environments, Unix, QA and test analysis.
* Business acumen. Ability to put together an ROI analysis and sell expert professional services.
* Consulting. People with ample contacts and potential sales prospects.
* Over achievers within the IT sales and non-sales environments.
* Young, fit and energetic people.
What's not:* General Microsoft technical skills.
* Third-tier client portfolio. Companies want top-50 companies on their books.
* Achievers just hitting their quota or thereabouts.