Recruitment Market Segment LS
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Tuesday, 17 September 2019 10:53

Contracting in the ascendancy as tech skills shortage takes hold, says recruiter Featured

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Contracting in the ascendancy as tech skills shortage takes hold, says recruiter Image Sujin Jetkasettakorn , FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Australian businesses are being held back by the country’s tech skills shortage, with many businesses now looking to skilled migration and contract workers to lift pressure on their workforce needs, according to one recruitment firm.

According to Robert Half recruitment, tech jobs dominate skilled migration - accounting for 7,600 of the 82,000 total skilled visas issued by government in 2018-19 – but that was not enough workers to meet demand, with companies also calling out for contract workers to fill these roles.

The Robert Half  2019 Half Salary Guide found there are specific roles and skillsets in higher demand on an interim/contract basis than permanent, in order for businesses to quickly gain access to niche skills in order to keep pace with technological change.

In particular, Robert Half says demand for contingent cyber-security continues to grow as companies invest in rapid security initiatives for their IT infrastructure systems.

And overall, the top five in demand roles are IT Security Specialist, Project Manager, Business Intelligence Analyst, Systems Engineer and Business Intelligence Analyst.

Robert Half says skilled IT professionals are leveraging the trend to contracting, with its survey revealing that two in three (66%) of CIOs are hiring contractors to upgrade their company’s digital transformation efforts - while 78% of CIOs agree that contract workers provide a valuable solution to Australia’s IT skills shortage.

Robert Half says the rapid pace of digitisation is generating strong demand for IT skillsets, particularly in a market where skilled IT talent is in short supply, with CIOs “overwhelmingly” turning to contractors to fill the skills gap.

According to the survey, two-thirds (67%) of Australian CIOs say experienced interim/contract IT professionals have become increasingly important to manage their company’s digital transformation initiatives.

Robert Half cites the the SunSuper Australian Job index showing that contingent jobs currently represent almost a third of all job ads and have shown a 4.9% increase in demand across industries in 2019 to surpass permanent vacancies.

And according to the SunSuper Job index, for companies employing IT staff on a project basis provides access to niche, low supply skills such as blockchain, natural language processing, or full-stack development as required, which can offset the higher salaries these “sought-after” specialist skills command.

“Given the rate with which technology evolves CIOs need to execute strategic projects quickly and efficiently in order to remain competitive,” says Andrew Morris, Director of Robert Half Australia.

“They are increasingly turning to experienced IT contractors to achieve these initiatives and upskill their permanent teams in the process. Professionals equipped with in-demand skills are therefore well-positioned to turn this demand into competitive job opportunities and should genuinely consider if transitioning to contract work is the next logical step in their career.”

According to Robert Half, millennials are most likely to embrace contract opportunities, with contract roles offering flexible work opportunities and exposure to a variety of projects and industries – and proving especially attractive to younger generations of IT professionals for whom the ‘career for life’ mentality is outmoded.

“IT professionals across all age groups are recognising the advantages of contracting. However, millennials are typically more comfortable with the variable nature of contract work than older generations,” says Morris.

“Gen Y technology professionals are also attracted to the flexible nature of contracting and the opportunity for accelerated career growth and are often less concerned about climbing the corporate ladder within the same organisation.”

But, Morris says that "becoming a contractor is something that needs to be carefully considered. But the upside is that contract work helps IT professionals become more desirable to employers as it provides exposure to the most advanced IT projects and the latest technology trends, as well as helps the professional gain experience across different teams and industries.

“However, while contract work is in high demand and offers many benefits, professionals looking to transition away from permanent employment should also take into consideration the potential reduction of job security, loss of non-financial benefits, and limited opportunities for advancement within an organisation that contractors may encounter,” Morris concludes.

Robert Half lists five key benefits it says can be attained by working as an IT contractor:

  • Potential for increased salary – Contract roles can offer higher remuneration than permanent positions. Particularly as contractors generally accrue industry experience at a faster rate than their full-time peers, they are typically able to negotiate higher hourly rates.
  • Variety of experience – Contracting gives IT professionals the opportunity to be involved in a variety of projects without the cyclical repetition that can accompany a permanent role. This variety is intellectually stimulating, keeps skills fresh, and encourages ongoing improvement.
  • Variety of organisations – As a contractor, IT professionals can work across many organisations and industries. They will develop expertise and experience with new technological challenges at every move. This exposure is appealing to businesses looking for fast solutions or implementation and can help to accelerate career paths faster than those in permanent roles.
  • Flexibility – Contract work creates flexibility around the duration of the assignment and working schedule. Contractors are also able to pick and choose new roles based on their timing, amongst other considerations, allowing for extended time between roles or vacation periods that potentially exceed standard annual leave allowance.
  • Adaptability – As a contractor, you will be frequently immersed into new teams, software systems, and organisational structures. This cultivates resilience as contract professionals are expected to be agile and adaptable in order to produce results with speed. In a world that’s changing rapidly due to ever-evolving technology, resilience is a sought-after and highly transferable skill.

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Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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