Skills, jobs

ICT recruitment a classic case of tail wagging the dog

Image: Stockfresh

10 January 2017

Niall Kitson portraitTwo reports came across my desk this week that, when put together, give a valuable overview of the state of ICT recruitment in Ireland. It goes like this: plenty of jobs, not enough qualified people to fill them, inadequate graduates, stressed business owners, pampered and entitled staff. Shocked? You should be.

The first report, a survey of employers and employees by Trinity Business School and recruitment firm Abrivia show that despite the efforts of third level institutions and government, the Digital Divide remains. The good news for job seekers is that this puts them firmly in control of their careers to the point where they can almost name their terms. The bad news for employers is that their staff can name their terms.

In the employers’ column, 87% of respondents said they planned to hire additional IT staff in 2017 and 50% planned to pay bonuses. However, IT roles were proving the hardest to fill (80%) followed by sales (17%). If you’d think looking overseas would help, think again: more than a third (36%) of employers said visa regulations were making it difficult to attract overseas staff, with candidates from India, China and the US (in that order) the most sought after. Still, if there is one good complaint to have it’s that you’re growing too fast for your facilities to keep up with – 33% of respondents said finding enough office space was a challenge.

Naturally, with employers struggling to get bums on seats it’s interesting to see how the other half live and apparently they’re living well. According to Abrivia and Trinity, 80% of IT professionals said they expected a salary increase this year but as important as money is, respondents said they valued job satisfaction and team dynamics as highly. Maybe it’s a millennial thing to think being engaged with your work is as important than getting paid well for it. This may change as the workforce matures, but for the moment staff are seeing their office cubicles as temporary arrangements at best: some 41% said they planned to move jobs this year.

And here’s a stat that will have most people in knots: IT professionals polled said they would only work in Dublin if they received a pay increase of 20% to mitigate the cost of living in the Capital. This contrasts with the 1%-3% sought for moving outside Dublin.

Finally, even if you are offering pots of cash, the possibility of a relocation bonus, a professional development programme and a shiny new office with all the beer and a pool table, you still might not meet job hunters’ expectations. A total of 68% said they consulted websites like Glassdoor, Indeed and even Twitter to gauge what previous and current employees think of different companies.

Dropping out
IT professionals are getting it their way for now but surely the lure of a lucrative career in tech is helping third level institutions produce suitable candidates? Apparently not. According to a report in the Irish Times, IT courses are experiencing massive student retention issues, especially at the Institutes in Technology. IT Tralee’s Computing with Software Development; IT Sligo’s Computing & Games Development; and Waterford IT’s Computer Forensics & Security courses seem particularly affected, with up to 70% of the original intake failing to graduate.

These three examples are outliers but on a national level Computer Science tops the list of drop-outs at 26% at Institutes of Technology (followed by Construction on 21%) and 15% (second to construction on 16%) in Universities (third behind services and construction-related subjects at 23% and 16% respectively).

These alarming figures confirm an argument I’ve made a few times through the years: that a low barrier of entry and bouyant jobs market means that while courses are being filled, it’s not necessarily by students with the capability or passion to complete them successfully.

This is terrible news for employers and excellent news for that restless 41% of on the lookout for a boss in 2017. Businesses are still in hiring mode and the multinationals are doing everything they can to create workspaces their staff is happy to spend hours of overtime in.

It’s appropriate that the tech industry, which prides itself on ‘disruption’ should be enjoying this period of employees calling the shots. The rest of us can only look on in envy and bemusement.

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