Good afternoon. I’m [NAME/TITLE] of Robert Half Technology, a global specialized staffing firm focused on the IT industry. Robert Half Technology is proud to be the only staffing firm endorsed by AITP. Our alliance with this organization underscores our commitment to providing IT professionals with the highest quality career and management-related professional resources. As technology educators, you know that today’s students face a very different employment market than graduates did just a few years ago. Although the current economy is showing signs of improvement, it’s still a challenging job market, especially for new graduates. Due to cautious hiring practices, outsourcing and a host of other factors, there are fewer job openings. The competition for those available positions is stiffer than ever before. It’s not a candidates’ market like it once was. The good news is that job opportunities are available for graduates who are well-prepared. That’s what I’ll talk about today – how you can make sure your students have not only the necessary technical training, but also the soft skills and job-hunting savvy required to find the right position in today’s market. First, I’d like to tell you about Robert Half Technology and what we do.
Robert Half Technology places highly skilled IT professionals on a project and full-time basis in positions ranging from help desk staff to IT security specialists to chief technology officers. We have offices in more than 100 markets in the United States, Canada and Europe. Our parent company, Robert Half International Inc. (RHI), was founded in 1948 and pioneered specialized staffing services. RHI is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (Symbol: RHI) and was the first staffing firm in history to be included in the widely tracked S&P 500 index. We conduct extensive research on workplace-related topics and are frequently cited career experts in business and trade publications worldwide. We’re also a respected source on hiring and management. Our annual Salary Guide , for example, provides data on average starting salaries for IT professionals in the United States and Canada and is referenced by businesses, educational institutions and government agencies. With our extensive research and experienced placement specialists in so many markets, Robert Half Technology is well-positioned to provide insight into hiring trends in the technology field. We know what companies look for when seeking candidates. Our core competency is filling the needs of IT hiring managers – every day, year round.
During today’s presentation, we’ll cover a number of important topics about what students can do to increase their marketability in today’s competitive job market. First, we’ll take a look at the factors impacting the IT employment environment. In particular, we’ll focus on which businesses are hiring and why. This information is important because it will influence the curriculum and career counseling you provide to your students. Second, I’ll give you a quick overview of the leading IT skills and specialties, so you can help your students identify their areas of interest and plan their training accordingly. Then we’ll consider whether your students are working on developing the nontechnical skills and abilities that are mandatory for today’s professionals. We’ll look at how you can make sure that when your students graduate, they’re ready to compete with other job seekers. Finally, I’ll review starting salary projections. Over the past few years, IT salaries have fluctuated with changing economic conditions. It’s important that you give your students an accurate picture of current compensation levels and provide them with a sense of what to expect in terms of compensation right out of school.
Although it’s been a few years since the dot-com bubble burst and the subsequent recession began, the IT market is still experiencing lingering after-effects. It’s no exaggeration to say that the entire industry has been struggling during the past few years. Put simply, companies haven’t been investing in technology at the same pace they were at the end of the last decade. In addition, the outsourcing of jobs to overseas vendors has gained in popularity as companies look for ways to cut costs. While we can’t predict the future, it looks like outsourcing is gaining momentum. The offshore component in the delivery of U.S. IT services is currently at 5 percent. But a survey of leading IT services vendors conducted by IDC Worldwide Services indicates that this may rise to as much as 23 percent by 2007. This translates into fewer available job openings for tech graduates here in the U.S. This is a sobering statistic for those still in school. But it’s important to put such numbers in context for your students. It doesn’t mean they won’t find work in their field. What it does mean is that competition will be intense, and they must prepare today – through education, skill-building, internships and networking – so that they will be first-choice candidates of tomorrow.
Based on our experience and research, there are several key areas driving hiring within US companies. These are: Capital expenditures – Firms are upgrading hardware and software to replace aging systems purchased in the late 1990s in preparation for Y2K conversion. Spam and viruses – The continuing epidemic of viruses means that corporations are beefing up network security and installing up-to-date intrusion detection devices. Companies are also upgrading their infrastructure and implementing e-mail filtering tools in response to rising levels of spam. Wireless communication – IT executives are gaining greater appreciation of the value of mobile solutions. As a result, companies are investing in wireless applications and supporting users on notebooks, tablet PCs, PDAs, smart phones and other devices. Business intelligence – Organizations are seeking to collect, store, analyze and provide access to data that helps executives make better business decisions, spawning the growth of a broad category of applications. The Internet – The Web has a presence in all businesses, resulting in enhanced levels of collaboration, customer service, customization, streamlining and management. Regulatory requirements – The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 has had a considerable impact on technology departments. CIOs must build and manage the controls that ensure information passes audit scrutiny. IT departments are also affected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the PATRIOT Act and the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act, among others.
It’s evident that CIOs feel renewed optimism. Across North America, they are initiating IT projects that were placed on hold due to budget constraints. But full-time hiring remains measured as executives look for strong indications of sustainable economic growth. As a result, many IT executives are turning first to project professionals to accommodate growing workloads. This approach offers more flexible and strategic management of human resources. Companies can expand and contract staff levels in response to workload fluctuations, allowing them to prepare for long-term growth while avoiding overhiring in the short term. In addition, many companies are bringing in new employees on a temporary or project basis to ensure the person is the right fit before extending a full-time offer. What this means for new graduates is that they must be willing to work on a temporary basis, with the understanding that getting a foot in the door in this way could eventually result in an offer of full-time employment. Here’s a statistic worth sharing with your students:
[READ FROM SLIDE] We call this “auditioning” for the job. Companies use this approach for several reasons: To determine if they have a full-time staffing need, To minimize productivity losses and costs associated with poor hiring decisions To gain a more complete picture of an individual’s on-the-job performance and their ability to interact successfully with coworkers
When looked at as a whole, these factors mean the long-range outlook for the IT industry is extremely promising. In fact, a recent survey by Dice.com says that 49 percent of tech companies are doing more hiring this year than last. In addition, reports from sources such as CIO magazine and Forrester Research indicate that IT spending levels are inching up. And a number of recent reports have noted that venture-capital funding is increasing. This is usually a key driver for employment. Our own research confirms these results. Robert Half Technology’s most recent Information Technology Hiring Index and Skills Report -- a quarterly survey of more than 1,400 CIOs in all industries -- revealed that 9 percent plan to add full-time staff this quarter. Only 3 percent plan staff reductions. The bottom line is that there is hiring going on. Obviously, it’s not the high-demand, get-a-job-on-the-spot kind of hiring we saw at the end of the 90s, but there is cause for optimism. Where will this hiring activity take place? Which industries should your students focus on when seeking internships and jobs? Let’s take a look …
Industries projected to experience strong growth in 2005 include: Business services Financial services Real estate Manufacturing Construction If you shape your program to reflect the current IT employment outlook, your students will receive the training they need to participate in what we could call the coming “tech recovery.” We’ve looked at the industries that project strong hiring – but which positions or specialties will show the greatest demand?
Robert Half Technology recently surveyed CIOs in the United States to find out what areas of specialization they recommend for someone just beginning his or her IT career. Here are the results: Network management: 29% Information security: 18% Help desk and end-user support: 14% Data/database management: 13% Project management: 12% Software development: 4% Other/don’t know: 4% I’d like to talk in a little more detail about the skills necessary for some of these areas, so that you can make sure your students are on track with their training and skill-building.
As the graph on the previous slide indicated, networking expertise is the area of specialization most in demand, primarily because firms use their internal systems to share data companywide and power their business-critical applications. On top of this, a fundamental understanding of network management is the basis for growing specialties such as information security, wireless communications, broadband and Voice Over IP. To be considered for networking positions, students need: Hands-on experience with Windows XP/2000/NT, UNIX and/or Linux systems Experience with security-related hardware and software. This includes LAN/WAN and WLAN management and systems administration, background in virtual private networks (or VPNs); TCP/IP; intrusion detection; and firewall implementation To stand out from the crowd, your students may want to pursue an advanced certification, such as Cisco Certified Network Administrator, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer or Certified Information Systems Security Professional Networking experience doesn’t guarantee employment, but a solid understanding of networking topographies and protocols builds a foundation for several different IT specialties.
Another in-demand area is technical support as businesses move more processes online. This specialty is a great starting point for new IT graduates because it offers access to a variety of technologies as individuals begin to develop experience and focus. According to Robert Half Technology’s IT Hiring Index and Skills Report , CIOs listed increased customer/end-user support as a key factor influencing hiring decisions. There’s growing demand for help desk analysts, systems administrators and technical trainers who are skilled in supporting and training internal and external customers. For such positions, candidates need: Strong interpersonal and communication skills A customer service focus Experience with Microsoft XP/2000/NT, UNIX and Microsoft Office applications
Demand for database management professionals continues to grow as companies look for ways to easily store and strategically use customer data. To qualify for a position in this specialty, candidates must demonstrate: An understanding of relational database theory Experience with Oracle8i/9i/10g, Microsoft SQL Server or IBM DB2 technologies Certification as database administrators Let’s take a look at other technical skills that are in demand …
Our research as well as the day-to-day experience of our placement specialists has shown that the top technical skills include: Windows administration Visual Basic development CheckPoint firewall administration Cisco network administration SQL server management
We’ve just spent a considerable amount of time looking at the technical side of the equation. Obviously, this information is important because it influences the courses your students will take and the internships they’ll seek. But technical expertise alone will not make them stand out in a crowded market. Companies are looking at larger pools of very qualified applicants, so they must rely on additional criteria to identify the best candidate for a given position. CIOs are therefore placing greater weight on non-technical, or soft skills. In fact, Robert Half Technology recently polled CIOs to find out how vital it is that job applicants today possess strong soft skills. Ninety-eight percent felt that they were critical. That’s very telling.
We find that companies favor candidates with: Industry experience Communication skills Business fundamentals Interpersonal skills Let’s take a more in-depth look at these areas and discuss how they might impact your IT curriculum and career counseling efforts. [NOTE TO SPEAKER: ADD SOMETHING ABOUT THE TYPES OF SOFT SKILLS THAT COMPANIES IN YOUR MARKET REQUIRE. FEEL FREE TO USE SPECIFIC EXAMPLES, WITHOUT NAMING THE ACTUAL CLIENTS.]
Organizations prefer individuals who can hit the ground running and make immediate contributions to the bottom line. A proven track record of results lets hiring managers know that the new hire will likely be able to benefit their businesses in a similar way. But the long-standing Catch-22 for college students is that they need experience to gain experience. How can your students augment what they learn in the classroom? We recommend internships, volunteer positions and part-time work. These opportunities allow students to gain valuable “real world” experience while providing them with firsthand knowledge about the IT industry and specific types of businesses. They’ll find out what appeals to them and where their strengths and interests lie. Above all, they’ll gain solid experience to put on their resumes. You may want to remind your students that there are still a large number of unemployed, experienced IT professionals on the market, which means that recent college graduates are up against some stiff competition. As a result, it’s imperative that entry-level candidates build experience early on.
As technology professionals become more involved in strategic business initiatives, they interact with colleagues throughout the organization, from coworkers in other departments to senior executives. Even entry-level positions can entail written or verbal communication with a nontechnical audience. CIOs seek strong communicators who can clearly explain complex technical concepts to others. With this in mind, students must not overlook the importance of developing a clear, intelligible communication style. Whether they’re giving a presentation, writing a report or dashing off a quick e-mail, they must be able to present information in a way that is understandable to their audiences. Courses in English, business communication and similar areas are worth their time.
IT staff who can translate business requirements into deliverables – such as streamlined processes and increased operational efficiencies – will have an advantage over candidates who cannot articulate how technology spending will benefit the organization. In addition, IT professionals need to have a solid grounding in the fundamentals of business, such as accounting and finance, so that they can collaborate successfully with colleagues in other areas of the company and develop truly effective solutions. In a survey we conducted of CIOs, only half said their firms provide their IT staff with training in areas such as leadership, communication, project management and business basics. Clearly, candidates who already have some or all of these competencies will be highly valued. Your students may want to take courses in finance, business administration or other areas that could bolster their business acumen.
Last but certainly not least are interpersonal skills. These include diplomacy, tact and a cooperative, team-oriented attitude. Such qualities are essential for IT candidates so that they can build successful business relationships with colleagues throughout an organization. In addition, technology is moving closer to the end-user as firms automate business operations such as customer service, supply-chain automation and sales-lead tracking. Strong soft skills are needed for the individuals charged with supporting these systems to effectively interact with their end-users. The question for educators is: “Can interpersonal skills be taught?” The answer is a resounding yes. Encourage your students to participate in group projects and on-campus clubs and organizations to learn how to effectively collaborate with a variety of individuals. It’s also worthwhile for students to identify a mentor -- such as a professor, advisor or member of the local IT community -- who can provide valuable guidance and advice. For the final portion of the presentation, I’d like to briefly discuss compensation levels in the IT field.
According to extensive research we conducted for the Robert Half Technology 2005 Salary Guide , starting salaries overall for IT professionals are expected to remain stable in 2005. An average increase of 0.5 percent is expected, with larger increases anticipated in such high-demand specialties as information security and quality assurance. Positions expected to show some of the largest increases in starting salary are network security administrators, systems auditors, pre- and post-sales consultants and programmer/analysts. Decreases are projected in starting salaries for Internet/intranet administrators and desktop support analysts, among others. The data in the 2005 Salary Guide is based on an in-depth analysis of thousands of job orders managed by Robert Half Technology’s U.S. offices, so this information reflects the hiring activity and plans in actual companies around the country. In discussing starting salaries with students, it’s important to emphasize that there are regional variations in salary and hiring activity. Other factors, such as bonuses and incentives, which are not included in our calculations, can also affect base compensation. Free copies of the Salary Guide will be available after the presentation.
To conclude, I’d like to quickly recap the key ideas of the presentation. To achieve maximum marketability in a competitive job market, your students need to: [READ LIST ON SLIDE] You can help them achieve these objectives through appropriate career counseling and an IT curriculum that emphasizes the education of the “whole” professional – both technical and non-technical sides. If your students follow your guidance and take these steps, they’ll be better able to write their own tickets to success as IT professionals.
It’s been a pleasure speaking to you today. Thank you. [OPEN FLOOR TO QUESTIONS]
Preparing Students for Today’s IT Employment Market Ted Mullin Metro Market Manager