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Rise of the career contractors

Sim Ahmed | Feb. 3, 2012
Confidence returning to the financial sector and greater desires to balance work and life, are contributing to a recent increase in the number of career contractors in the IT industry, according to recruitment firm Robert Walters.

Confidence returning to the financial sector and greater desires to balance work and life, are contributing to a recent increase in the number of career contractors in the IT industry, according to recruitment firm Robert Walters.

"We've seen a big shift towards what we would call career contractors. These are highly skilled or experienced people who choose to forgo formal employment and instead move from project to project, contract to contract," says Tom Derbyshire, Auckland IT recruitment manager at Robert Walters.

Derbyshire says a large portion of his candidates are looking for short term work, and the last time contracting was this prevalent was before the global financial crisis in 2008.

"In my experience, you usually see an increase in contractors during times of financial confidence," says Derbyshire.

He says employers in certain markets are contributing to the trend, by specifically seeking contractors instead of hiring permanent staff, which is driving up the demand for skilled IT contractors.

"We're seeing clients cutting down on permanent staff, and instead choosing to employ skilled short term staff. Unfortunately the number of suitable candidates available in New Zealand is very limited, which drives up the wages of those who are."

Derbyshire says this is particularly true in Wellington, where transformation and effeciency drives in government departments mean many agencies are reluctant to increase their permanent headcounts.

"Our public sector clients in Wellington are paying a premium on short term, but highly skilled workers rather than investing in permanent staff," says Derbyshire.

The rates being paid to IT contractors in the Wellington region mean employers are having to pay up to ten percent above the market rate to keep their permanent staff from pursuing a contract career, according to Robert Walter's 2012 IT salary survey.

However, Derbyshire says overwhelmingly candidates say lifestyle, not money, is the main motivation for moving into the contracting space.

"Obviously you can stand to earn more if you're contracting, but it's also about lifestyle," says Derbyshire.

"More and more I see candidates looking for six to nine month fixed positions. They save their money furiously while working, and use it to spend the rest of the year with family or go on holiday."

Edwin Dando agrees with Derbyshire regarding the popularity of IT workers seeking contract positions, but does not think this is a recent trend.

"I don't think this is a sudden thing, there have always been a lot of contractors in the New Zealand IT scene, and it's been that way for a long time," says Dando.

Dando is the managing director of Clarus, a consultancy firm which acts as a collective and support service for independent IT contractors.

 

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