Hottest IT job skills for 2011

Jobs grow slowly, shift dramatically toward cloud, virtualization, business

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The number of jobs in corporate IT is increasing – slowly – according to a new analysis of government statistics from IT-management and HR consulting firm Janco Associates.

That doesn't mean the growth is good news for IT staffers or middle managers, however.

IT is in the middle of a fundamental transition from traditional data-center-based IT to a more distributed, dynamic model that includes cloud- and virtualized services – which require different skills, different organizations and often involves more contract workers and outsourcing, the report concludes.

The result is a much less certain future for everyone in IT, and big changes in what's expected of them:

" Janco predicts there will be more churn in IT staff as CIOs accelerate their move to more flexible staffing models. CIOs are outsourcing more technical work, including managed IP services such as VoIP and VPNs. They are hiring more contractors for desktop and security services, and they are putting more applications such as remote backup in the cloud," the report said.

The result is that CIOs are eager to retrain or replace people with aging or less relevant skills, but are having trouble finding those with the right business-oriented skills, cloud-computing skills and other high-demand specialties.

IT recruitment giant Robert Half Technology's latest IT Hiring Index – a survey of 1,400 CIOs – estimates a net 7 percent increase in the number of companies creating new positions in IT. The survey showed 9 percent of CIOs expect to add positions, while 2 percent expect to cut them.

CIOs are still cautious, though. Only 48 percent said they were extremely confident their companies would fund new IT projects during the second quarter.

A few specifics:

The U.S. Dept. of Labor estimated the U.S. economy created 192,000 new jobs during February, though the unemployment rate held steady at 8.9 percent. Unemployment has dropped .9 percent since November, the report said.

After adjusting for seasonal fluctuation, hiring and firing, Janco estimates there were only about 2,600 new IT jobs created in February.

The labor department classifies IT-related jobs in several different categories, which normally makes it more difficult, rather than less, to figure out what's happening in IT.

In this case the report shows a loss of 43,700 jobs in the Telecommunications sector during the previous 12 months, compared to growth of 48,500 jobs in Computer System Design and Related Services.

The shift from skills consistent with telecom departments and toward more sysadmin-related jobs is probably a reflection on the push by many companies to outsource the complicated tech to which they can't add much value, and expand virtualization, cloud computing and web-related projects.

It probably doesn't hurt that Computer System Design would also cover anyone hired to implement or support mobile-computing projects using tablets, smartphones or other BYOT hardware.

Janco and RHI differ a bit on the list of jobs in highest demand, probably due to their differing focus. RHI's main business is recruiting and hiring contract or full-time workers for specific companies.

Janco's is a combination of analysis, consulting and research, focusing more on the business end result of IT projects, not exclusively who it hired to carry them out.

Tech jobs in highest demand this year, according Janco's annual IT Salary Survey, published in early January of this year:

  • Project Management – especially large projects with short time frame for delivery
  • Security – focus on mandated compliance issues
  • Network Administration – wireless and cloud administration
  • Virtualization (Cloud) – new applications and management of the IT infrastructure
  • Business and Operational Analysis – focus on business change
  • Productivity Improvement Analysis – metrics and operational analysis
  • Web 2 – interactive applications that add value
  • Database Management – applications that leverage enterprise assets
  • System Administration – Windows and UNIX management
  • Desktop Support – standardization and change management

Hardest skills to hire, according to RHI:

  • Security
  • Networking
  • Applications development
  • Help desk/technical support

Skills in greatest demand, according to RHI

  • Network administration
  • Windows administration
  • Desktop support
  • Database management

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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