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Tech careers update:
Skills shifting, demand easing

graphic
iconAccording to the new quarterly Tech Skills Demand Index from techies.com -- being released Monday -- employer requests for UNIX skills have significantly jumped between October and March. Click here for a comparative look at 20 skills and their demand levels in the past six months.  

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'On the bodies of everybody else'

'It's not a tragedy'

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(CNN) -- "Everybody knows the demand is beginning to catch up with supply. No surprise there."

But on Monday, Cynthia Morgan, techies.com's vice president for content and executive producer, will release her site's new quarterly Tech Skills Demand Index. And entry-level IT workers may be the ones reading with frowns on their faces.

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"Supply (of tech workers) is nowhere near catching up with demand yet," Morgan cautions. "But it's beginning to. Anecdotally, employers are telling us they're having an easier time filling positions they haven't been able to fill for six months.

"Because of that, one of the findings is that there's much less call for entry-level employees. If this is having any nasty fallout effect on anybody, it's on people who are just breaking into the technology field. An employer might have been willing before to take somebody straight out of college. Now, he's got a little breathing room. He'll say, 'I think I'd like you to have a year's experience first.'"

With more than 750,000 tech professionals in its active membership, techies.com is a recognized central site on the Web for IT workers and employers. The company regularly surveys its membership, tracking trends and developments in the field and publishing results for the industry-at-large.

The quarterly index uses more than 30,000 job openings posted on techies.com by more than 2,000 employers between last October and March to rank a knowledge of XML at No. 16 of the 20 skills most requested by employers in job listings. In October, the index put XML at 19.

Another effect, Morgan says, is new specificity from employers when advertising for what's wanted.

"We have a normalized list of skills," she says, with some 1,100 different specialties that can be used in job postings at techies.com. The site serves as a networking hub for IT workers and the companies hiring them. "Almost without exception, those slipping the most on the list are generalists.

"Employers are looking for jacks of all trades, but they're also being very specific about the skills those jacks of all trades must have. They're not just saying, 'Gee, you've got to know something about the Internet,' they're saying, 'Gee, you've also got to know something about XML (Extensible Markup Language).'"

graphic

'On the bodies of everybody else'

Among the most telling changes in skill-set demand ranking is for UNIX, the operating system. In March, the techies index placed demand for UNIX skills at the top of the 20-skill list -- six months earlier, it had been at No. 3. And a second variety of UNIX, Sun Microsystems' Solaris, ranked 15th on the list, moving up from the 20th spot. Demand for Linux, UNIX's grassroots version, increased by about 15 percent, although the operating system still hasn't broken into the top ranks.

  TECHIES.COM'S TOP 20
TCP/IP rose from 17 to 12. "Computer information and technology" fell off the charts completely. So did "Internet computing." In the past six months, techies.com's Tech Skills Demand Index saw some new specificity entering job postings in the IT arena.Click here for the Top 20 in October and in March.
 

By comparison, Java -- the programming language that's simpler to use than C++ -- slipped between October and March, from first place on the index to third. C++ held onto the second spot on the list. Java had been requested in some 16 percent of posted ads at techies.com in October. By March, it was being asked for in about 13 percent of the postings.

"With the dot-coms going out and a lot of corporations cutting back on their Web initiatives," Morgan says, "it's not really surprising to see demand for skills like Java go down that much."

Morgan downplays negative interpretations of the release last week of the Information Technology Association of America's (ITAA) study indicating a cooling demand for new IT workers in 2001. The ITAA study showed a U.S. information technology work force of some 10.4 million people and a demand for new jobs in 2001 dropping to 900,000 from 1.6 million on 2000.

"Now the brick-and-mortars are coming out. ... It's a pity they're building on the bodies of everybody else. But that's the way business works."
— Cynthia Morgan, techies.com

Despite layoffs and dot-com shutdowns, the techies.com survey shows that technology hires in March drew salaries about 2.5 percent higher than candidates who answered tech want ads in October.

•  The salary ranges listed in job ads during October ranged from a low of $58,111 to a high of $110,837, for an average of $84,474.

•   The March snapshot boosted that range by $2,052 per year, to an average of $86,526.

graphic

'It's not a tragedy'

"You have to realize," says Morgan, "that we've been watching a concentrated Business 101 course.

"You've had all these people getting unlimited funding to experiment. Rather than the old mode -- 'fund it, start it on a shoestring, build it slowly, see it grow' -- we had in the space of about two years virtually every business model possible tried out on the Internet.

"A lot of the big brick-and-mortars stayed back and just watched. Now the brick-and-mortars are coming out. You'll see them try something, then pull it back, try something, pull it back. But they already have such a rich body of knowledge from the past two years. It's a pity they're building on the bodies of everybody else. But that's the way business works."

And Morgan has some advice for early-career IT workers who missed those past two years.

"I feel sorry for the graduates but ... it's not a tragedy. It just means you're not going to be driving a Porsche this year."
— Cynthia Morgan, techies.com

"I just got through talking with somebody who said, 'I've got all my certifications, I've got my degree, and yet I'm having trouble getting interviews.' I questioned him a little more closely and he said, 'Well, the average starting salary for somebody with my degree is supposed to be $85,000 per year. And they (employers) are only talking $35,000 or $40,000.'

"I told him, 'Consider this your additional year of internship. Or apprenticeship. Whatever you want to call it. That kind of money will pay your bills. And the experience will enable you to go and get the $85,000 job.'

"I feel sorry for the graduates but I think they also need to come down and realize there was a short period of time when they were gold and would make that kind of money. And now, we're back to normal.

"It's not a tragedy. It just means you're not going to be driving a Porsche this year."

[watercooler]



RELATED STORY:
Report: Dot-com fallout may be slowing
April 6, 2001
Report (ITAA) says demand for tech workers plummets
April 2, 2001
New IT survey finds tech workers wary
March 6, 2001
He clicked, she clicked: Working on the pay gap
January 17, 2001
Crowning careers: IT workers still rule
December 26, 2001

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