16 Mar Economic recession drives demand for key IT skill sets
More often than not, when discussing employment opportunities in today’s troubled economic times, the focus is primarily on the rising unemployment rates – forecast to hit 8 percent in Wisconsin later this year – and declines in job openings across the board.
For IT, however, the outlook is not quite as gloomy as it is for other sectors. Though Wisconsin non-farm jobs decreased by an estimated 33,600 from November to December 2008, just 6,200 of those losses were in the Professional and Business Services. Of those, just 100 came from the professional, scientific and technology category.
In 2009, IT hiring nationwide is expected to increase by 28 percent, according to the 2009 U.S. Jobs Forecast survey conducted on behalf of USA Today and CareerBuilder.com by Harris Interactive. Driving much of that growth will be hiring the skill sets needed to help businesses achieve their 2009 technology priorities, identified by Gartner as:
- Business intelligence
- Enterprise applications
- Servers and storage technologies
- Legacy application modernization
- Collaboration technologies
- Networking, voice and data communications
- Technical infrastructure
- Security technologies
- Service-oriented applications and architecture
- Document management
Indeed, as the above list of priorities implies, economic realities have actually increased demand for IT professionals with the skills necessary to help companies keep their systems running without costly upgrades and replacements. The recent spate of acquisitions and mergers – such as the merger of the Miller and Coors Brewing companies to create MillerCoors – has also created opportunities for IT professionals who can oversee the integration of divergent and legacy systems under a single corporate umbrella.
In Wisconsin, for example, IT positions aren’t necessarily abundant. However, we continue to see demand for mid- and senior-level project managers, business analysts, QA testers, C# and Java developers, as well as ERP specialists in the SAP and PeopleSoft niches. Also in demand are help desk/PC technicians, systems analysts and network support professionals.
This demand echoes the results of the 2009 Kforce Professional Staffing “Technology Salary & Employment Guide,” which found that data management professionals in Wisconsin were receiving average 2009 salaries ranging from $56,000 for junior database analysts/data modeler to $101,000 for a senior database administrator. Salaries for functional and business management professionals range from $43,600 for a junior technical writer to $191,000 for a CIO, and salaries for infrastructure professionals range from $32,200 for a junior desktop support/help desk analyst to $91,300 for a senior network security analyst.
What this means to IT professionals who are worried about hanging on to their current positions – or who have already found themselves on the unemployment line – is that they need to address market demands by positioning themselves to take advantage of jobs that are considered to be “recession-proof.”
For example, industry watchers consistently identify software design and development, networking and system administration, database administration, business analysis software implementation and software testing as the IT skill areas most wanted by employers. In 2009, that list also includes skills involved in wireless, Web 2.0 and virtualization to aid businesses with enterprise mobility, data center consolidation and unified communications initiatives.
For those who need to polish up their skills, there are a number of advanced learning and continuing education opportunities available to IT professionals through local colleges and universities. For example, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Center of Technology Innovation is offering “Tomcat Today, GlassFish Tomorrow?” a one-day seminar for web developers, administrators, IT managers, architects, solution providers, students, faculty and anybody else who is interested in learning how to use GlassFish. It features Arun Gupta and Peter Williams of Sun Microsystems, Inc., and takes place on March 20th.
For project managers, the Madison/South Central Wisconsin Chapter of the Project Management Institute will hold a Professional Development Day on May 8th in Madison. Featuring Gene Kranz, Flight Director Leader for Apollo 13, the day-long event is designed to help professionals enhance their project management skills.
PMI also offers Project Management Certifications that are held in high regard by many Wisconsin companies.
Finally, Microsoft has launched Elevate America, a new training initiative that will provide technology training for 2 million people over the next two years. Available online and through regional telecenters, the initiative helps individuals determine what types of technical skills are required for IT jobs and provides resources to help them acquire those skills.
It’s important to note that technology skills alone are not enough to compete for positions in today’s competitive job market. The most sought-after IT professionals also have a keen understanding of business – both the company itself and its clients – and who can communicate clearly, are creative and have top-notch problem-solving and project management skills.
It is also imperative that you be able to communicate your value to your current or prospective employer. To do this, you need to have a greater understanding of the types of projects companies have underway so that you can address needs they may not be advertising, or offer guidance that will help them achieve their goals more efficiently.
At the very least, you should understand the corporate vision so that you are able to express your talent in a way that aligns with the company’s values. Good starting points for all this information are networking and reading company blogs and other online articles in which the company shares its plans and strategies.
Taking the time to understand the market forces that are driving demand for specific IT skills sets and ensuring you have the experience and knowledge necessary to meet those needs will position you to not only survive but thrive in these difficult economic times.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. WTN accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.