Demand soars for IT workers, but execs feel chill wind of rejection

IT companies in Australia are experiencing large shortages of professionals to fill challenging, exciting, specialist roles, and more than half of them believe there will be too few skilled workers to fill IT jobs in the next 10 years, according to recent industry surveys.

However, despite IT workers having the best potential for wage rises in coming years (CW May 15, p1), demand for highly paid IT executives has fallen 100 per cent in the eight months to April, according to the EL Executive Demand Index.

This survey says the uncertainty and volatility in high-tech stocks as well as a lack of new IT investment by businesses before the introduction of the GST are believed to be factors behind the drop.

"The Internet bubble may not have burst, but the volatility has made investors more wary," said Grant Montgomery, managing director of EL Consulting Australia, which publishes the index.

"This is translating into more conservative employment practices in the high-technology sector, especially in the executive area. Without a booming share market, much of the easy money for companies in the high-technology area is in danger of drying up," Montgomery said.

"Companies will be less able to pay high executive salaries and that is having some effect on the index."

The survey indicates that demand is now half of what it was in July last year.

The index defines an IT executive as working in any corporate position involving electronic data processing software, but not data entry, while designing or fixing computer hardware is defined as engineering.

Roles such as chief information officer, IS manager, network manager, specialist programmer, software manager and system architect and business systems analyst are classed as IT executive positions for the survey.

Except for a seasonal bounce in February, the IT executive index has not had a month of increasing demand since last July.

Meanwhile, in another survey, Morgan & Banks found that 58.9 per cent of companies considered current education and training insufficient for the IT industry. And an Australian Institute of Management's national salary survey of 556 companies revealed IT workers were likely to receive a 5.5 per cent pay rise in the next year.

AIM chief executive officer, Graeme Burns said the specialist skills needed to work in the IT sector are in hot demand.

"Although IT is still relatively new, it offers great opportunities for career and salary growth," he told The Daily Telegraph.

An expected boom in Olympics-related jobs had failed to occur, with the survey showing a relatively modest salary growth of 4 per cent.

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