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IT jobs on the slow cooker


Sylvia Pennington

Growth in the resources, oil and gas, utilities and telco sectors is aiding ICT jobs.

Growth in the resources, oil and gas, utilities and telco sectors is aiding ICT jobs. Photo: Paul Jones

It's steady as she goes on the high-tech jobs front, with rates and salaries staying static, as the sector mirrors a modest upswing in the national employment market.

A job advertisement survey released last week by ANZ revealed job ads are on the rise for the third consecutive month. Figures for the year to March were up 2.8 per cent to reach their highest level since 2008.

Australia's largest jobs site Seek recorded 226,300 ICT job advertisements in the 12 months to March 2012; an increase of 6 per cent on the previous year's figures, while the number of responses to advertisements surged by 56 per cent.

Australian Information Industries Association (AIIA) chief executive Suzanne Campbell said the IT industry was expecting "respectable growth" of 6 per cent in 2012 and IT vendors' hiring patterns were likely to reflect this.

The ICT sector closely followed the overall economy, with the cashed-up mining sector expected to continue spending strongly on big budget, high-tech projects, Campbell said.

News of the upturn comes after a quiet few months on the technology hiring front. According to Peter Acheson, chief executive of the Peoplebank recruitment agency, the market went off the boil in October last year, when reporting of the European debt crisis put a dent in local business confidence.

"In Australia, banks are the largest hirers of IT people and our banks started to be more conservative with hiring," Acheson said.

"It affected the overall market through December, January and February. The market is now coming back but it's not being led by the banks."

Instead, strongest demand was coming from resources, oil and gas, utilities and telecommunications companies, along with the agricultural sector, which had money to spend after a bumper harvest, Acheson said. High-tech spending laggards were the hard pressed retail and manufacturing players, he added.

While the Big Four banks might be firing as many as they're hiring, it's a different story in the insurance sector. IT numbers are set to rise by 10 per cent at one company, Veda, this year as the firm tackles the back room work generated by significant legislative and regulatory change and continues building and deploying new products.

Veda CIO Tony Kesby said the company's IT shop was taking on staff in all areas: "from project managers and business analysts down to code cutters".

"We're growing and growing strongly," Kesby said.

New hires would be split between permanent positions and contract roles, he added.

The latter have long been a feature of the project-driven IT sector – and in these uncertain times there are more of them on offer than ever, courtesy of a market left jittery by the cold winds of the GFC.

Chief executive at the publicly listed employment group Clarius Kym Quick said many companies which had been appeared immune to the GFC had upped their quota of contract staff nevertheless.

"They're still reluctant to hire permanently, just in case," Quick said.

"The work is still there but the nature of engagement has changed."

While recruiters were experiencing a steady pipeline of work, hiring levels had not returned to pre-GFC levels and were unlikely to in the near future, Quick said.

"A lot of companies are moving forward with essential projects but holding off on things that are less mission critical."

And while some CVs can still command a premium – think impeccably credentialed project managers and SAP consultants with resources sector experience – long gone are the sellers' market days when techie types could leave a job at lunchtime and have another lined up to start the next morning, on more money.

According to Peoplebank's March 2012 quarterly salary survey, remuneration levels were static across all sectors of the industry. Current Sydney annual salaries for project managers ranged from $90,000 to $160,000, while developers could expect to earn between $80,000 and $110,000. In Melbourne, salaries ranged from $100,000 to $160,000 for project managers and $55,000 to $130,000 for developers annually.

"In the last 12 months there have been less unrealistic demands regarding salaries," Quick said.

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7 comments so far

  • "remuneration levels were static", tell me about it. No change in five years.

    Date and time
    April 18, 2012, 1:14PM
    • a fair analysis of the recent changes in the ICT job market.

      the banks have certainly slowed their hiring and increased in their firing in past 6 months

      Date and time
      April 18, 2012, 2:38PM
      • This along with the real estate spruikers are trying to put a positive spin into things. Rates definitely haven't gone up, moved a little sideways but quite a lot down the slope...rough times ahead.

        You serious?
        Date and time
        April 18, 2012, 8:22PM
        • Wouldn't be surprised if half the jobs are fake. Business groups need ammo if they are trying to claim a skills shortage.
          Probably need another round of visa based workers to help reduce wages.
          I know people with 15 years plus serious experience across multiple disciplines who can't find a position.

          Date and time
          April 18, 2012, 8:36PM
          • Havent the banks gone with "hey we are going to outsource your job overseas and before your gone would you mind training them to replace you"

            Date and time
            April 19, 2012, 10:40AM
            • One (at least) of the major banks is not interested in recruiting junior technical staff and training them up for a career, but instead is appointing contractors where it must and offshoring where it can. This is not the action of an industry concerned about shortage of skill, but one that wants to screw technical workers in this country.

              The new line they're using as an excuse to offshore is that they have to build "relationships" with overseas sweatshops while they still can. You see, in a few years' time everyone will be offshoring and you won't be able to get a foot in. All the more reason to train your OWN workers, but do they see it that way?

              Date and time
              April 19, 2012, 11:24AM
              • Growth in some industries maybe, but how do you get that industry experience to get a foot in the door?
                In my 30+ years IT experience I am now faced with two things - Ageism and Industry Blindness. To me a PC is a PC and Software (SAP, SQL, C++ etc) does not change just because the industry changes and it does not mean older experienced people like me cannot cope. On the contrary we are better adapters than many of the Gen Y recruiters that seem to 'know everything'.
                I am finding that a recruiter will leave their advert on a website till the new person has signed the contract, extending the time and number of people responding. In my discussions with recruiters in the 4 months I have been looking, is that the market is slowing down due to high $, uncertainty (Toyota, Alcoa, Carbon Tax, Mining Tax etc) and high wages. Off shoring to NZ where there is a 30% difference in wages but good lifestyle is attractive except I have not had sheep farming experience!

                Date and time
                April 19, 2012, 5:48PM

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