The IT Sky Is Not Falling (At Least Not So Much)

By Jennifer Zaino

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It’s likely that the biggest Inauguration Day drop in the Dow Jones industrial average’s history — a fall of 332.13 points to 7,949.09 — probably did little to boost the confidence of IT workers.

According to the latest Technisource IT Employee Confidence Index results for Q4, that confidence was fragile enough already. The Index dropped 7 points to 40.4 from the third quarter and shows that more IT workers are concerned about the economy and job market.

Seventy-six percent of technology workers believe the economy is getting weaker, up 12 percentage points from the third quarter of 2008. Three out of four technology workers (76 percent) believe that fewer jobs are available, an increase of 17 percentage points from the previous quarter, according to the Index that’s published by the technology services and staffing provider.

The drop doesn’t come as a real surprise to Greg Gary, managing director of Technisource. That said, there’s actually some positive news in what seems to be a relatively bleak outlook. Take, for example, the fact that the percentage of workers that are confident in the future of their current employer increased by two percentage points to 67 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. To Gary, that indicates there’s a decent amount of confidence among those who still have jobs — they’re not as worried about losing them, Gary says.

“And another thing we’re seeing is if there are jobs out there, the good news is that in this day and age that means those are real, true jobs. People aren’t just hiring for the heck of it now, so it’s just a matter of how creative you can be to get that job,” he says.

And the new administration in Washington may spur some progress on the IT jobs front as well. Consider, for example, the focus on green energy that is moving higher up on the national agenda. Gary is seeing that focus come to bear, particularly within Technisource’s government practice.

“The government is making a lot of effort toward getting green,” he says, which has implications for those with credentials in how IT can contribute to energy conservation. “When the government sends out an RFP, many now are asking to have people on the project that have green experience, whether that’s how to hire green team or change things. Not that many people have yet earned that experience at a high level and those that do are absolutely going to have jobs,” he says.

High On The Health Care Space

Adding more fuel to the IT jobs fire likely will be the Obama administration’s planned focus on health care modernization. Job site JobFox late last month posted its list of job sectors and key professions most likely to grow as a result of the president’s stimulus policies. All of them in the health care space, aside from nurses, are linked to the IT profession: IT specialists, information security specialists, and software developers.

Indeed, security pros in any sector, as well as data warehousing specialists, continue to ride atop the job wave, but there also are opportunities for IT consultants that can follow through on the IT assessments that many companies are in the midst of conducting in order to determine how to do more with less.

“A lot of companies are very fearful of bringing in full-time employees because of the cost connected to them. So managers are more apt to use temporary consulting help,” says Gary.

Among the outsourced areas Gary sees gaining traction for Technisource and other tech services providers is help desk support.

“If you have a help desk with full-time employees, the amount of time they spend on the phones is less than if you outsource to another organization that has temporary help,” says Gary. “The specific SLAs are more strict on an outsourced company, and you have to do it with less money, so we have to be creative in understanding and ensuring that those people must be on the phone the entire time.”

But under current circumstances, it’s almost hard to feel confident in any good news, and Gary expects to see a lot of negativity regarding the economy and the IT jobs out there for the foreseeable future. Still, he wants to point out that the IT industry, comparatively speaking, is still very strong. That’s because companies have to stay on top of technology in order to stay competitive, he says, and that will continue to drive jobs.

“Everything is falling,” he acknowledges, “but the rate at which IT is falling is much less.”