Which IT skills are still hot for contractors?

Which IT contractor skills are still hot this October?

  • The most wage-rich sector for IT contractors, Financial Services, has “taken a hit” in recent weeks, but IT recruitment firm Volt said demand for project-based contractors continues, particularly those whose skill-sets are focused on Project Management and Business Analysis.
  • Within these two roles, the agency’s most sought-after IT contractors tend to have knowledge of niche business domains.
  • Looked at in terms of rates alone, a slight changing of the guard is happening in terms of the hottest skills, explained the agency’s operations director for Europe, Sebastien Cobut. So whereas relatively new skills such as Windows 7 attract higher than average rates, previously hot skills (such as Solvency II) have cooled.
  • Demand at Volt remains marked for contractors skilled in Cloud Computing, Security Protocols and Mobile Application Development.
  • Contractors with C#, SAP or ERP, or .NET development lead the pack at IT recruitment firm Outsource UK.
  • These temporary candidates are experiencing the same healthy level of demand as project managers and PMO specialists, said Andrea Williams, a director at the firm, partly thanks to ongoing appetite from financial services.
  • Project Managers who work on a contract basis have seen a slight increase in interest from corporate clients, according to David Ward, a director at IT jobs specialist SQ Computer Personnel
  • Like contract Delivery Managers, he said the demand for freelance PMs began to rise at the start of September. Prospects for both these managerial types who can work on contract basis are “‘better than normal” for this time of year.

How has demand for these IT skills come about?

  • Pointing to its hottest contractors (PMs and BAs), Volt said the growing need for their skills seemed to stem from clients beginning to conduct ‘greenfield’ IT projects or from developing new products, such as, for a bank, a new trading platform.
  • But Cobut is seeing the demand for project managers extend beyond financial services, as data centre migration projects across the private sector are competing for the PMs.
  • Cloud Computing and Security remain hot simply for still being in the corporate agenda, the firm said. Mobile’s the same, as end-users who want greater flexibility in their workforce are demanding bespoke applications that can be accessed on personal devices, regardless of location.
  • The scaling up of project volumes has buoyed the market for PM and PMO contractors looking for work, according to Oustource.
  • The firm said SAP continues to be in demand as does.Net, which, like C#, is useful to a wide range of end-users, from cutting-edge software houses and tech start-ups to established corporates and high street retailers.

What about IT contractor pay rates?

  • While there is demand for PMs from data centre migrations, the rates on offer are lower than last September, Volt says.
  • In general, the agency says contractor rates are “static” – and have even levelled off for skills deemed ‘hot’ only a quarter or so ago.
  • Relatively new IT skills that clients do not have internally are leading in the contractor pay stakes, Cobut added, and easily return more than the average hourly rate.
  • Average contract rates have been either flat or have grown only marginally, Outsource’s database shows. “We haven’t noticed any significant [pay] upturns and most of our business is in the South/South West, where rates tend to be highest anyway.”
  • SQ Computer Personnel says rates for IT contractors serving the agency’s main markets have been static. This lack of movement on pay has persisted throughout 2011, and even extends to new roles released in the last few weeks.

What will Q1 2O12 bring for IT contractors?

Volt said: “The outlook [is] steady with no spikes in IT contractor pay or demand, as everyone adopts a cautious attitude to growth.  Financial services companies are taking a more diligent approach when focusing on their budgets and reassessing their need for projects. This may impact contractors as companies focus on hiring permanent staff. However, companies may prefer to retain the flexibility of contract labour in uncertain times.” 

Outsource’s Andrea Williams offered: “Putting all economic gloom to one side (as we cannot predict what the outcome of the Greek credit crisis will be) we feel positive about the demand for Q1 2012.

“We don’t see that there will be a marked decline in IT contractor demand, so we expect a relatively consistent market for contractors. Predicting growth is currently particularly difficult as there is so much bad press about the economic future, but we are cautiously optimistic.”

Reflected SQ’s David Ward: “There’s an encouraging amount of talk about an increase in demand for additional contractors for projects in some sectors. But those companies are not in a confident enough position to approve budgets, as yet.”

Oct 12, 2011