Despite the enormous demand for IT contractors created by the skills shortage, dismissal rates are high, creating fears that the urgent need for freelancers is pulling down standards.
IT recruitment agency Elan Computing conducted a telephone survey of 60 of its clients to find out why contractors are getting dismissed.
Peter Anthony, sales and marketing director at Elan, said: ?Dismissal rates can be quite high. As the IT skills shortage becomes more acute the problem will be exacerbated over the next few years. Clients must develop the right partnership with agencies and look at the selection procedure.?
As customers realise this, they are more likely to take safeguards such as service level agreements with agencies. Anthony pointed out that the increasing amount of money spent on procurement has led to the rise of such agreements, which often cover referencing, screening and how successfully people are placed.
?The partnership should be looked at long term so that both sides understand what is needed,? he said. ?Some agencies do take short cuts, but clients are interested in using contractors long term. There is life after Year 2000 and EMU so it is important to get the right match.?
The most common reason for dismissal was not being up to the job, with 89 per cent of respondents mentioning it. Poor time keeping was cited as the second biggest problem (84 per cent).
Inability to become part of a team was mentioned by 45 per cent of respondents, while sexual harrassment and drunkenness at work were both mentioned by 36 per cent.
Finally, 27 per cent of respondents had a problem with contractors forming illicit sexual relationships within the company.
Apart from the more mundane reasons given for dismissal, some unusual circumstances were unveiled. One contractor was escorted to the door for running an Escort Agency from his desk during working hours, while two respondents mentioned contractors who had been caught asleep in the toilet.
Tony Hart, a consultant with the National Computing Centre, does not believe the dismissal rates are any higher among contractors than they are in any other business. However, he does acknowledge that problems can occur because of the skills shortage. ?The penetration of IT into business over the past decade has been enormous and there will be continuing penetration."
?Contractors are often hired under pressure because of the shortfall of resources. Employers can?t afford to spend five or six months out looking. The pressure of time takes the heat off quality checking," he added.
Another problem Hart identifies is the lure of big earnings. ?We get calls from individuals wanting to know how to get into IT because there has been a lot of hype about the amount of money to be earned - in excess of #50,000 or 60,000. In reality these sums can only be commanded by very skilled individuals, typically with several years experience in application development.?
Analyst programmer Steve Martin said: ?Young graduates are going out to do contracting too early. They are blinded by money. They should stay where they are and learn.?
Tony Martin, IT manager for Perfect Pizza, said: ?I have only had to sack two contractors. One was on drugs which manifested itself in weird facial expressions. The other one got the boot for drinking. He would disappear at opening time and come swaying back. When I caught him I sacked him on the spot. He went sheepishly to his desk, got his whisky bottle and left. My permanent team of programmers cheered.?
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