Thursday, 28 February 2013 22:20

Matching ICT talent to demand still a ‘work in progress’

By Julie Mills

The  Information Technology Contract & Recruitment Association (ITCRA) is the peak body for the  ICT contract and recruitment industry in Australia and New Zealand and, in this article for iTWire, ITCRA CEO, Julie Mills, has taken a look at the year ahead and some of the issues shaping debate in the sector.

“Business has been indicating for some time that no longer is it just about ICT skills in isolation, these are obviously essential, but communication and presentation, team and performance management and business understanding are among other requirements.” Julie Mills, ITCRA

Although the average number of working days to fill a role in ICT steadily declined over 2012, ITCRA’s SkillsMatch Dashboard supports the commentary of ICT contractors on blogs and in the media that there are many who struggle to find employment, as an increasing number of candidates with the skills and workforce competencies in demand are now available to employers.

The Dashboard trend of last quarter indicated the days to fill a role decreased across most states to an average of 13 days – the previous quarter was 15 days - while the number of suitable candidates decreased from the previous quarter despite more candidates being available.

This suggests that, despite a greater availability of candidates there is a bigger issue than just “the talent”, as the alignment of ICT talent to business needs appears to slowly be moving in a positive direction. This trend is not new and as we move into 2013 it is timely to review this trend and consider what it may mean for the marketplace.

General market sentiment and online discussion forums indicate that contracting in the ICT industry continues to rise. ITCRA’s quarterly SkillsMatch Dashboard shows a further increase in placements from last quarter. 23 percent of roles placed by those Members contributing data were permanent positions and 77 percent contract roles - the highest level since the second quarter of 2009.

This increasing trend is market driven and continues to reflect the nature of many of the ICT infrastructure projects coupled with ongoing changes in Government tendering arrangements and the business models of those clients partnering with ITCRA Members.

In addition these trends show a slow maturing of the partnerships. Contracting has always been the preferred option of many of the ICT workforce –and therefore the placement models, required by business and supplied by ITCRA Members, are increasingly reflecting this preference.

Current economic decisions are being made in a risk averse environment with a business taking a considered view of the continuing global economic uncertainty. When employers face gloomy forward predictions the contracting workforce provides the flexibility to scale up or down according to demand. This delivers a business agility and opportunity to regularly review workforce needs.

When this is done in partnership with ICT contract and recruitment companies then clients and contractors have increased opportunities for knowing the talent and projects that are available – a win-win in uncertain times.

The mismatch in the Top 10 Skills In Demand by employers and the Top 10 Skills Offered by candidates is highlighted again this quarter. These skills include SAP with only 24% of employers seeking SAP skills able to source candidates and Testing which have been on the Demand list for several quarters now, while Infrastructure and Microsoft Windows Desktop are new additions. These broad descriptors can relate to a variety of environments but provide opportunities for those contractors wanting to broaden their exposure to a wider range of roles.

The roles with less than 50 per cent skill fulfilment in the Demand vs Offer chart provides  opportunities for those supporting ICT employment (recruiters, education institutions and outplacement companies) to review their capacity to advise, re-skill and re-position the growing candidate pool and for contractors to review what they have to offer the marketplace.

Business has been indicating for some time that no longer is it just about ICT skills in isolation, these are obviously essential, but communication and presentation, team and performance management and business understanding are among other requirements. This sentiment suggests it is time to for the ICT talent pool to consider these broader workforce competencies to enhance their opportunities.

With the Federal election now on the agenda, natural disasters across a number of regions and the continuing volatility of economic indicators – the need for an agile ICT contract workforce that can fulfil the needs of business in times of change is never more essential than now, but the mismatch of available talent and demand, is still a work in progress which is good news for the ICT contract and recruitment industry and it’s downstream suppliers. What will continue to be a challenge is ensuring the recognition by all political groups that ‘contracting’ is a legitimate form of work in many sectors, particularly ICT, and that for the greater majority it is the engagement model of choice.

Reports from a number of ICT recruitment organisations and clients in early January suggested that significant new projects were expected to kick off as early as March with client surveys suggesting that early 2013 will be a busy time for new projects and then scoping for major projects in the 2013-14 financial year.

The question is, will the drawn out election campaign have an impact on confidence? If so, short term projects will become the norm again, at least until the election, and that can only be good news for ICT contractors and recruiters.

To read the full ITCRA Trends Report and Dashboard you can purchase them by going to this link: https://www.itcra.com/shop/skillsmatch-reports.


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