IT professionals are in danger of getting carried away by the hype of new technologies and writing off their existing IT skills too early, according to new research from vnunet.com's sister title Computing.
XML has overtaken Java in terms of perceived demand, and specialist niche skills continue to command relatively high salaries driven by demand from specific industry sectors.
But analysts warn of a potential mismatch between the skills that technology professionals think they will need to develop, and those most in demand by employers.
James Burckhardt, research manager at VNU, warned respondents not to write off bread and butter IT competencies, including Unix and TCP/IP as well as niche skills.
"Hype is causing over-interest in certain areas," he explained. "There is still genuine demand for niche skills. No one is looking to throw out a technology that's doing a perfectly good job."
The study of over 1,200 of Computing's technical readership also highlighted widespread pessimism about the state of the market.
Almost half of respondents expressed concerns about redundancy, with those in the technology, financial services and manufacturing sectors feeling the most uncertainty.
The survey suggested that XML specialists command average salaries of £50,800, and .Net experts now earn £40,800 a year. But salary expectations suggest that technical staff have little faith that a job move will result in a boost to their pay packets.
Respondents are far more pessimistic about prospects than last year. Only 28 per cent agreed that IT professionals could afford to be quite choosy about new opportunities, compared with 58 per cent the previous year.
Technical staff also feel that training is less of a priority than last year, despite having a significant impact on productivity.
Almost half of respondents indicated that their productivity had increased by at least 50 per cent as a result of attending a training course.
Only 22 per cent agreed that employers were keen to train and develop IT staff in order to retain them, compared with 30 per cent in 2001.
More worryingly, 42 per cent of technical staff said that their employer did not provide enough training for them to do their job effectively.
Almost half of respondents have been on no technical training courses in the past 12 months, and a further 25 per cent had been on just one IT training course.
Non-technical training is even less of a priority. Some 62 per cent of respondents had been on a non-technical course, with 23 per cent having attended only one in the past 12 months.
Richard Chappell, UK managing director at IT training company Learning Tree, which sponsored the research, explained that companies are still choosing to buy in skills because of the perception that newer technologies are in the hands of whizz kids.
"Organisations invest considerable amounts in hiring staff," he said. "They should look at the skills gaps they have and look to retain existing employees with transferable skills within their organisation to individuals who have yesterday's skills.
"Companies still see training as a 'nice to have'. But employers with a long-term view will continue to invest in staff.
"Companies that have continued to focus on staff will be in a better position to exploit the uptake when it happens and retain better quality staff."
|Source: Computing/Learning Tree research|
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