Irish contract market Part 2 - 'Hot' skills for 2010/11

Part 2 of our spotlight on the Irish Contracting Market follows Part 1 here.

While many big names are increasing their full time headcount in Ireland, there are encouraging signs that demand for a range of contract skill sets will also increase over the coming months.

Grainne Bagnall, manager at Verkom Dublin, anticipates sustained growth over the next 18 months with a particular focus on Java and .Net.

And an IT-business manager Paddy O'Connell of Berkley Recruitment expects some normality to return to demand on the infrastructure side, as companies release more capital for system/infrastructure upgrades.

"The market has bottomed, particularly with regards to development. In the short term, demand for ERP and data warehousing/business intelligence specialists will remain low, but as the Irish and global markets improve I expect that to change."

Hugh McCarthy, IT division team leader at recruitment agency Brightwater says there has been a visible increase in the volume of daily rate and fixed term contract roles coming through since the start of this year.

"Many of these roles have arisen due to project based work, which is a good sign. We are also seeing a proliferation of fixed term contract roles - there are companies who shed permanent staff in late 2008 and throughout 2009 who are now spread very thin in terms of resources but may be reluctant to rehire new permanent staff."

He identified a shortage of experienced J2EE and C# developers and says rates are slowly creeping back for these skill sets. On the downside, there are still a lot of deskside support and systems administration candidates on the market, and demand for their skills is unlikely to pick up before the end of this year/early 2011.

Brightwater's IT recruitment arm also says smaller technology companies are reaping the rewards of the training and technical exposure received by staff from multinational firms when they decide to move on. The agency expects further encouragement for contract staff over the coming months.

McCarthy said: "Companies are investing more in R&D and many of our clients are talking about extensive project plans over the next 12 months."

While a number of high profile technology companies – including Citrix and SAP - are currently recruiting permanent IT staff in Ireland, a spokesperson for IBM in Ireland said Big Blue was still taking on contract staff with specific skills sets, notably SAP.

Most contract opportunities at IBM are for its Dublin integrated delivery centre, which delivers helpdesk, operations and technical server support to IBM clients across Europe.

IBM is also at the centre of a two-way battle for one of the most valuable technology projects in the country – the contract to manage Bank of Ireland's IT infrastructure, which will move from HP when the current deal expires in early 2011.

That contract saw some 500 staff move from Bank of Ireland to HP six years ago. The new deal will be secured by either IBM (which employs around 3000 people in the Republic of Ireland and is one of the country's largest IT employers) or HCL, which has some 2000 BPO staff in Northern Ireland. Incidentally, Ireland's communications minister met senior HCL management in India in March to discuss the company's plans for the Irish ICT market.

A spokeswoman for Bank of Ireland was unable to put an exact timeframe on when a decision would be made, other than to say that the identity of the preferred bidder would be announced soon. "The next phase is for us to select one party to enter into exclusive negotiations with," she said of the contract, which was worth $600 million in 2004.

Paul Golden

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