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Recruiters: IT job prospects are better than you think

Hiring experts line up on both sides of this critical debate

By , Network World
January 03, 2011 06:05 AM ET

Network World - Will there be a jobless recovery for IT in 2011?

Also read: Virtual, mobile, social endeavors drive IT in 2011

That's the most important career-related issue facing IT executives today, as they make staffing decisions for next year while also worrying about their own job prospects amid a steady stream of corporate downsizing and offshoring announcements.

Ask any IT pro who is out of work right now, and the answer to this question is a resounding yes. They'll point out that more IT infrastructure and support jobs are being outsourced, and that it's harder than ever to find full-time employment.

Talk to recruiters and placement firms, and a different picture emerges. They report a rise in corporate IT shops looking to hire application developers, project managers and mobile device experts -- if not on a full-time basis, then at least for short-term projects.

We polled five experts in IT hiring trends, and here's what they had to say about tech job prospects for 2011.

Yes, There is a Jobless Recovery for IT

Jerry Luftman, a distinguished professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., says that by definition we are in a jobless recovery in the United States.

"The economic gods in Washington have declared that the recession has been over since the summer of 2009, but we also know that the job situation has not been very good," Luftman says. "If we look at the next year or two, it will probably remain a jobless recovery."

Nonetheless, Luftman predicts that IT professionals — entry-level and experienced — will have better job prospects in the coming year than other types of professionals.

"The use of IT is expanding everywhere," Luftman says. "There isn't an industry, there isn't a part of an industry, that doesn't see new and innovative opportunities to leverage IT. Whether it's in changing infrastructure, considering going to a virtualization or cloud computing, or whether it's new, innovative applications that leverage business intelligence or [customer relationship management], the opportunities are growing."

Luftman sees job opportunities growing not only with emerging technologies but also in support of legacy systems. In particular, he sees rising demand for IT professionals with experience in Cobol, IBM's CICS transaction systems and IBM's IMS database management system.

"As the Baby Boomers start to retire, there's going to be a huge gap in the number of IT people with experience in legacy systems," Luftman says. "The biggest companies still have a significant amount of their production environment  running on legacy systems...and as Boomers retire, they aren't going to have enough people to backfill these jobs."

It's possible that support for legacy systems will go offshore. In a recent survey of CIOs that he conducted for the Society for Information Management (SIM), Luftman found that offshore outsourcing is expected to increase from 5% of IT budgets in 2010 to 7% of IT budgets next year.

"That's a big jump," Luftman says. "I think part of it is that organizations are not finding the talent they are looking for and are willing to go offshore...There are Cobol people in India, and they are ready to support a legacy application."

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