IT job seekers have downgraded their salary expectations as the economic downturn continues to bite, but are placing more emphasis on career development and training opportunities than ever before.
Employers still prefer to take on pre-trained staff and continue to shun training because of concerns that IT staff will leave if they become better qualified.
The latest biannual salary survey from IT recruitment specialist Robert Walters found that IT salaries are starting to waver as the downturn in IT recruitment continues.
Demand for 'pure' IT professionals, in particular project managers, infrastructure managers, network engineers and business analysts, is still strong, although salaries have remained stagnant compared with six months ago. IT recruitment across financial services is described as "cautious" by the study.
The telecoms sector, meanwhile, has taken a battering, with average IT salaries experiencing a slump of up to 15 per cent compared with six months ago.
"There's a general realisation across the market that we're in for a slow 12 to 14 months. Clients are very particular about their needs in terms of technical skills and cultural fit. But they're reluctant to take on someone who's prepared to take a huge drop in salary, because of concerns that they'll move on again when the market picks up," said Richard Lloyd, director of the technology division at Robert Walters.
Other areas in strong demand include security and networking specialists who can support routers, gateways and hubs. Unix and Oracle database administration skills are also particularly sought after, driven by ongoing concerns about the perceived scalability of Microsoft NT/SQL Server technologies.
However, a study conducted by analyst Gartner together with IT industry association CompTIA and IT training and certification specialist Prometric, has dispelled the staff 'churn' myth and criticised IT employers for their short sighted view.
The survey of 18,000 IT managers and certified IT professionals found that 71 per cent of IT staff stayed with their employers if they were better qualified, despite being seen as more valuable to the whole market. Only 10 per cent of certified professionals sought training to find another job.
Although 42 per cent of managers said they were holding off certifying employees because of their concerns, two thirds of IT managers said that having certified staff resulted in a higher level of service, increased competitive advantage (59 per cent) and increased productivity (57 per cent).
John Eary, head of the NCC Skills Source Consultancy, warned that training needed to be used as an appropriate business tool. "Technology isn't standing still despite the slowdown. Companies will have fewer people who are expected to be more productive. It's in your interest to invest in the appropriate training to get the most out of the people you have," he said.
"If people feel as if they're being held back because of a lack of training opportunities it will cause resentment and will impact productivity," he added.
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