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12/6/2006
01:44 PM
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Tech Pros Feeling Good About Jobs And Prospects

More good news: Demand for tech talent is predicted to become increasingly intense in 2007.

Tech professionals last month were the most optimistic about jobs than they've been all year, according to a new report issued Wednesday by IT staffing and outsourcing firm Hudson.

In addition, demand for tech talent is predicted to become increasingly intense in 2007. That's especially true for key skill groups, including experienced professionals of project management, change management, and business analysis, according to staffing firm officials.

"There's strong funding [for IT projects] through Q4, and we're expecting that trend will continue in North America in 2007," says Tim Bosse, Hudson's executive VP for IT and telecommunications.

Driving job confidence among participants of the Hudson November survey were record-low expected layoffs and improved outlook regarding personal finances. Each month, Hudson phone-surveys 9,000 workers in several sectors, including nearly 500 tech pros.

Compared to a base score of 100, IT and telecom professionals rated their job confidence at 115.8, the highest score in 2006, up 6.2 points from October, and 14.8 points higher than in November 2005.

Also, that score of 115.8 in November was the highest it's been since October 2004. Since Hudson started its monthly surveys nearly three years ago, the highest tech confidence score recorded was 121.6 in August 2004.

Tech pros in November were significantly more optimistic about jobs than workers overall, who rated their confidence at 105.3, up nearly four points from October.

In November, a record-low 14% of tech workers reported their companies laying off workers. Roughly 21% said they're worried about losing their jobs, down from 25% of tech workers in October.

More than half (51%) of tech workers last month said their personal finances are improving, up three points from October.

Among the trends Hudson has been seeing is an increased interest in employers to convert contract workers, especially senior project managers, into permanent employees at their companies, says Bosse.

"Companies are rethinking talent, and if it takes an offer of a permanent opportunity to retain an experienced, high-end project manager, they will," says Bosse. Still, there's less demand for contract-to-permanent job transitions among mid- and lower-level positions, he says.

The demand for seasoned project managers has also been increasing for tech staffing firm Sapphire, says Mark Eldridge, the company's chief operating officer. "We're experiencing a narrowing of job titles and skill sets" that clients are seeking, Eldridge says. "Before, demand was all over the board in lifecycle management," he says. Now, companies are upping their demand for a few key job titles, including project managers and business analysts. Also starting to gain ground are quality assurance and change-management specialists, he says.

"A few years ago, clients were focused on, 'Let's hold this together' and maintenance strategies for IT," Eldridge says. "Now, it's, 'Let's reinvent the business, launch new things, and become more competitive.'"

While Bosse says Hudson sees strong demand for ERP project expertise, Eldridge says Sapphire sees strong demand for skills that help bridge the gap between technologists and users.

"Clients are assessing where to provide functionality, where to tweak and build bells and whistles for users," Eldridge notes, whether that's improving functionality and tools behind the scenes for consumer Web sites or enhancing payroll and order-entry systems.

Sapphire is considering new services for customers in which they'll help clients develop bench-strength for project-management skills, says Eldridge. Besides business analysts and project managers, the IT staffing firms anticipate other hot tech jobs demanded by clients next year will include Java programmers, software validation experts, and database pros.

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