Foote Partners Releases 2010 IT Job Predictions

A good news/bad news forecast

Foote Partners has released its predictions for the IT jobs market for 2010, concluding it’s a good news/bad news forecast.

The analyst firm says that according to U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) statistics for November, overall IT unemployment has stabilized. “U.S. employment numbers … show a second straight month of overall improvement in IT-related employment segments, indicating that stabilization has finally occurred.” Foote also sees momentum building for an IT job recovery in 2010 in two of five technology employment areas (jobs increased in the past two or three consecutive months).

The DOL reported a net gain of 11,200 jobs; that compares to 31,000 jobs lost in the first eight months of the year. “The most robust job segment, Management and Technical Consulting Services, has gained a net 13,600 jobs in the first eleven months of 2009, with net job gains in four of the last five months. A second segment in the same job category, Computer Systems Design and Related Services, posted a net loss of 7,800 jobs in the same 11-month period, but a gain of 5,500 jobs in October and November,” the firm reported.

The good news, Foote says, is that IT services industry faces increasing demand; Foot says it sees “hiring of technical and management specialists picking up further in the first quarter of 2010.” The bad news: firms offering data processing and hosting services “are still feeling a great deal of pain, as are computer, peripherals, and communications manufacturers who continue to shed jobs.”

Foote’s own research leads the firm to expect little “meaningful IT jobs recovery in 2010.” Any increase won’t be noticeable until late in the year, or “more likely 2011, despite the recent GDP upturn and recovering stock prices in our nation’s third straight year of economic instability.”

Volatility still rules staffing and pay, and will do so through 2010. “Workforce reshuffling in response to business decisions used to take months; now it’s happening in weeks and even days. This is responsible for the extreme volatility in skills pay and demand,” which Foote said came to light in its compensation trend surveys starting in July 2009.

Employers are focusing on making investments in specific IT skills as they attempt to “recalibrate their IT workforces by striking the right balance between costs, agility, and intense competitive market pressures” which the firm admits is a moving target.

Skills may come from internal hiring and training or from outside contractors, consultants, and outsourcing firms. “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,” Foote reports.

Recovery Hot Spots

Foote predicts that in terms of employment, the IT services sector will be the first to recover. “We believe the search will be even more frantic next year for right-skilled IT contractors, consultants, and even managed services that can be depended on to perform critical work -- a boon for the IT services sector.”

Skills in greatest demand haven’t changed much, Foote admits: “information security, ERP (mostly SAP), open source operating systems, virtualization, architecting, a variety of IP networking areas (VPN, Metro Ethernet, IP telephony), and business processes” are the hot spots. Skills used in “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” will also be in demand.

For IT professionals, the “hot list” of IT certifications leads with Red Hat Certified Engineer, Cisco IP Contact Center Express Specialist, GIAC Certified Incident Handler, Systems Security Certified Practitioner, and Cisco Certified Design Expert. For IT professionals, the hottest segment remains IT security. “Unlike other technology job segments, pay and demand for security skills have risen steadily since 2007 and neither budget nor headcount has diminished in economic hard times.” Driving the demand is increased regulation, fear of increasing threats to the enterprise, increased customer expectations, and “the splitting of business/strategic risk and operational security activities, which has been accelerated by market forces.”

However, security experts need more than just technical skills. Enterprises are still looking for business knowledge “and experience necessary for corporate and business line security positions in risk management and governance.”

Social media is no longer a fad, and enterprises will be looking for IT professionals “who can engage audiences in their company’s messages, products and services. The skills sets in demand will be technical but also heavily business and consumer focused, with many industry- and situationally-specific flavors.”

Foote also sees demand for skills for web development, e-commerce applications and systems, and business intelligence skills.

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