Depending on who you ask, there is either optimism on hiring for technology jobs in the first quarter of 2010 or there is flatness. Recent studies from Gartner Research and Computer Economics expect jobs to rise in the first part of 2010.
How many jobs are we talking about? No one seems to ask. They ask whether companies plan on hiring, but they don't get into specifics on the number of job openings. Adding one measly job to the ranks could be considered hiring. Is that real job growth?
As evidenced in both the Gartner and CE reports, spending for IT budgets is expected to rise in 2010. This is good news for those who are employed in IT and who had been mostly concerned with cost cutting from business pressures. Funding is essential for new projects to take hold and for the opportunity for contractors and additional help to be brought on.
But what about full time jobs? The ones with benefits? Foote Partners, a Vero Beach, Fla.-based technology research firm, is less bullish on hiring than the other two reports. Foote believes hiring will be much slower. Here is what they say (in a recent news statement (PDF))
"We believe IT hiring overall will not pick up noticeably until late next year, and more likely 2011, despite the recent GDP upturn and recovering stock prices in our nation's third straight year of economic instability. Expect the length of the tail on this staffing lag to be much longer than previous economic recoveries. Volatility will continue to punctuate staffing and pay levels throughout 2010, with human capital investments focused on specific IT skill specializations as employers struggle to recalibrate their IT work forces by striking the right balance between costs, agility, and intense competitive market pressures---which is a moving target, of course."
The name of the game is skills, and how companies will get them for the best price possible--much of which is contract- or outsource-based, and not necessarily stable work with full benefits, writes Foote Partners:
"Hiring restrictions, combined with business leaders demanding quicker high impact, predictable, cost-effective execution, will continue in 2010 to refocus employers on skills, not jobs. In a process somewhat different than traditional drawn-out hiring practices to fill resource gaps, they first specify the work to be done followed by an intensive identification of hard and soft skills needed. Next they look around for the people who have these skills, both inside and outside their company, and at what expertise and expense level. Finite resources are shifted very quickly toward retaining and building--or renting---those skills and workers, and just as rapidly away from resources they no longer need. And that's unusual, because work force reshuffling in response to business decisions used to take months; now it's happening in weeks and even days."
Are there consequences to rapid fire and a skills-only focus? Foote Partners thinks so:
"The biggest downside of this skills focus and accelerated process: Quick decisions to cast off anybody and anything that is a drag on finite resources often results in unfortunate consequences post-recession when unique experience and skills held by certain cast-offs are desired once again. The big layoffs may be over for now but the risk of shifted to rapid specialized skills acquisition and selective hiring will burn careless employers."
So, what are the skills in demand next year? Take a look at what Foote says:
"[i]nformation security, ERP (mostly SAP), open source operating systems, virtualization, architecting, a variety of IP networking areas (VPN, Metro Ethernet, IP telephony), and business processes. Also in demand are a handful of skills relating to e-commerce development and Web 2.0/social media, including selected programming languages and tools: Microsoft Commerce Server; Java; SOAP; Python, Microsoft Sharepoint; C; SQL; Sybase Adaptive Server."
The silver lining in all of these reports is that there is no shortage of IT work, and those who can adapt and strengthen skills to those that are in demand will have an edge.