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In hot jobs market, IT workers call the shots

Mary K. Pratt | April 28, 2015
With wages up, unemployment down and open positions galore, it's a great time to be looking for a tech job.

Chief among those demands is a bigger paycheck. Among Computerworld survey respondents who said they're looking for new jobs, 60% said they're doing so for higher compensation; that was the No. 1 response. And 74% of all respondents (not just those looking for jobs) said a salary increase would most influence them to change jobs, making it the leading reason by far.

Specialists in demand
According to our survey, 64% of those expecting to expand their IT staffs this year plan to hire mostly for highly skilled specialist positions, while 31% want staff or entry-level technical professionals. Only 3% plan to hire mainly for management positions.

Some organizations will have more trouble than others filling open positions, of course. Recruiters and IT leaders say that some regions — namely the tech-centric cities on the East and West coasts as well as urban areas in between — have more open tech positions (and thus more competition for talent) than other locales. And employers seeking to fill jobs in several hot disciplines, including security, big data, the Internet of Things and mobile app development, will have a harder time finding the right candidates.

Yet no one sees a return to the days of the dot-com boom when companies were frantically trying to hire IT professionals. "We're not in a crazy bubble mode, and I'm not worried that there will be one," says James Stranger, senior director of product management at CompTIA, a tech industry group known for its certifications.

Still, he says, there's a gap between the demand for IT professionals and the supply of them, particularly in key areas such as programming, project management and IT support.

Scott Magerfleisch, a network services manager for a municipal agency in Colorado, is well aware of the hurdles he faces as he prepares to replace a retiring tech support worker this fall and, in 2016, add a system administrator to his 14-member team.

Even though Colorado has a "ridiculously low" IT unemployment rate (1.8%, according to staffing firm Upp Technology), Magerfleisch can't start searching for a replacement until the current employee's retirement nears — the budget won't support two paychecks for the same position for very long. The short timeline will be challenging enough, but he also anticipates that candidates will come in with demands because they know they have their pick of opportunities.

Still, he's optimistic that he'll find good candidates — that is, people with enough experience but not so much that they can command the highest pay. He plans to use staffing firms because they will have done the upfront vetting and skills assessment work, and he plans to hire people on a temp-to-permanent basis to ensure they're technically capable and good cultural fits before adding them to the staff.


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