Specialists needed to make an impact on demand

An Icon Recruitment-commissioned study suggests that an "internet as business" philosophy driving new economy enterprises demands IT pros to arm themselves with newer, specialised impact skills.

According to the Icon IT Trend Index, over the last 12 months one in every three IT skills advertised was for communications, network or internet-related jobs. Demand for skills in these fields increased by over 44 per cent in the past year, with 67 of 133 internet skills completely new.

Mainframe skills had been "wiped away", according to Colin Gottliebsen, managing director of Gottliebsen Research. "The whole industry by default is now focused on the speed with which we're seeing and processing our data, not the software that writes it."

Demand for traditional high-volume IT skills such as single-skill, mainframe-based expertise decreased by 8.5 per cent, giving way to "new market, ‘impact' skills" in the fields of voice over IP (VoiP), wireless application protocol (WAP), digital communication, broadband, certification, distributed networking, multimedia, radio satellite, CRM, XML and rapid application development, the survey said.

The survey also concluded that IT project managers must be multi-skilled in internet fields as well as marketing skills. "IT managers have got to be the analyst," Gottliebsen said. "In the new culture, e-commerce is the highest priority of the business."

Constant re-skilling in new software releases was also crucial for IT developers and programmers looking for promotion, Gottliebsen said.

Meanwhile, Gottliebsen warned that universities needed to lift their game in supplying the IT labour and tools for the new economy.

"It's a catch-22 situation where IT companies want the cream of the uni's stocks to get the people working on their products," Gottliebsen said. However, he felt that universities were failing to meet demand for new IT skills. Once students had been taught basic IT and computing science courses, their skills became outdated once they entered the workforce, Gottliebsen claimed.

"Universities will have to incorporate multi-vendor certification into their curricula," he added. Gottliebsen did not envisage universities would be eager to provide free certification, citing bureaucracy and economics as hindrances. He said vendors were now employing people with no formal IT qualifications "just to get bums on seats".

He believed the "niche" skill set identified in the study opened a "new technical market" for vendors moving towards outsourced IT service provider models. "IT vendors are going to pockets of IT specialists who are technicians trying to be businessmen," Gottliebsen said.

And "pocket" IT groups could afford to play businessmen, Gottliebsen believed, as their specialist skills in web development and technical backup, for instance, were now highly sought after.

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