It has seen its fair share of ups and downs in recent years, with the dotcom crash of 2000 and the subsequent boom period, but while other industries are cutting costs and freezing recruitment, the IT sector is currently looking relatively healthy for 2009.
Times are by no means easy, but the demand is still present for software developers, in particular, in most of the major cities. Word on the ground is that those who are highly skilled, flexible and prepared to negotiate on salary should find employment without too much difficulty.
Last week’s Hays Recruitment Quarterly Report on IT found that recruitment in the industry is still ongoing in many sectors and that highly skilled technical candidates remain in demand. Large government-funded projects such as the Australian National Broadband Network will require a significant number of skilled workers and even the private sector is still recruiting – albeit at a slightly slower pace.
According to Peter Noblet of Hays Recruitment, contractors are currently much more in demand than those seeking permanent positions.
“We’re seeing a lot more contract roles coming up as companies become that bit more circumspect about their recruitment policies,” he told the Irish Echo. “A contractor is more flexible than a permanent worker and with everything that is going on in the economy at the moment, that is what most employers are looking for.
“There is still a shortage of skilled workers in many areas of development, such as Dot.Net, Voiceover IP, Java and J2EE. But the right experience, knowledge and business acumen is essential. Average workers will struggle.”
Finding a job depends on where you’re living as well as your skill set. Sydney, the traditional hub of IT activity, has seen a distinct slowdown, but still has by far the most positions available. Brisbane is suffering slightly due to the mining industry slowdown, but is still relatively buoyant, according to recruiters.
By contrast, Melbourne has seen a dramatic downturn, according to the general manager of Finite IT Recruitment Solutions, Duncan Thomson. As a result, many workers are investigating a move to Canberra, which is seeing a surge in job opportunities in the IT sector.
“Melbourne is a tough market for IT at the moment,” Thomson told the Irish Echo. “I would say it is one of the toughest markets in Australia.”
Finite IT have seen the number of applications for jobs around Australia double in the last nine months, he added.
“We are now getting double the volume of response to each ad we place,” he said. “I think on reflection it’s a lot tougher out there than it was this time last year…The market is an awful lot slower. But things are still looking optimistic for the year ahead. There is always demand for good quality IT professionals.”
When software developer Stephen Price, 31, from Dublin, arrived in Sydney in January 2007, he had a range of job offers to choose from. Having acquired residency through his skilled occupation, Price found jobs in both contract and permanent positions were plentiful.
“When I arrived in Sydney, it was in the middle of an IT boom and there were more jobs available than people to fill them,” he told the Irish Echo. “I actually had a choice between four different jobs around the city and I found that, as a contractor, the money was better in Australia than Ireland.”
However, as the economy worsened at the end of last year, Price was let go from his company and found himself searching for work at the worst possible time of year.
“There are still jobs out there but these days there are more people looking and less jobs available,” he said. “I was lucky enough to get a good role at a good rate, but the other jobs I was in the running for were not positions I would be interested in when times are good. I think IT professionals who are on Working Holiday Visas or are looking for sponsorship might struggle to get work in the current market.”
Aidan McGowran, 26, from Dublin, was also searching for work in Sydney last month and found his Working Holiday Visa was a distinct disadvantage in the eyes of recruiters. Despite this, he found it much easier to secure a job than he had initially feared.
“I thought it would be tough to find employment during December and January, which are traditionally very slow months for recruitment in Australia, and I doubted the recession would make things easier,” he said. “But there seemed to be a decent number of jobs available, although the rates on offer were slightly lower than previously.”
As the markets in Europe and the US continue to slide, it is inevitable that more IT professionals are going to descend Down Under. Recruiters are already seeing a surge in Australians returning from overseas in search of work, and there has been an increase in the numbers of people overseas applying for skilled migration visas.
“There are certainly more and more candidates looking for work,” Noblet said. “But this is no Dot.Com crash. I still think the jobs market will be pretty good in the first quarter of 2009.”
by Isabel Hayes