ICT: Tech firms on crest of a wave

Ireland is looking forward to an average increase in demand for high-level ICT skills of around 5% a year out to 2018, with the employment of IT professionals anticipated to rise to just over 91,000, according to a Brightwater Recruitment survey.

ICT: Tech firms on crest of a wave

“The world of Information Technology continues to move at a rapid pace and this presents many challenges to businesses trying to attract candidates with the right skills and attitude needed to help drive their business forward,” says Hugh McCarthy, Brightwater’s IT Division manager. “Unfortunately, the IT market continues to suffer from an imbalance of supply and demand, with many employers struggling to attract candidates with the skills required for certain key roles.”

The Brightwater Salary Survey of 2014 showed salaries across the breadth of IT rising between 5% and 10% on average, comparing very favourably with other disciplines which saw an average increase last year of between 2% and 3%.

“There was an 18% increase in the number of people who believed salaries had increased in the local technology market over the last year, up to 38% from approximately 20% a year ago. Overall, the data suggests a more positive outlook from candidates on the movement of salaries in the market.”

The size of companies also affects the decision making process of candidates. Over 35% of respondents to the company’s technology survey last year indicated that they were more interested in moving jobs to established multinational companies, while this year the figure has decreased to just 15%. Conversely, the number of people this year that would choose to work in a start-up or medium sized company has doubled to over 45%.

“The data suggests that a majority of software engineers still have a preference to work with more established small to medium sized businesses,” says Mr McCarthy. “The amount of choice currently available to many developers allows them to make slightly riskier decisions and take a chance on joining a start-up company. This availability of choice means that if the role or company doesn’t work out, they can usually find alternative employment within a short space of time.”

The growing attractiveness of start-ups this year lies in the perceived flexibility of smaller firms, their appetite for innovation and the perception that they “have their fingers on the pulse” of the local IT market.

Brightwater managing director David Bloch said that the firm had seen strong demand for recruitment services in a number of sectors over the past year and a half.

“The fact that we as recruiters are recruiting ourselves underpins the increasing recruitment demands and growing confidence in the Irish economy.” The company is currently hiring for 50 positions in its Dublin, Cork and Belfast offices.

“While recruitment demands are increasing across the board, we are seeing a particular demand in the areas of IT, banking, legal, HR and office support,” he said. Mr Bloch also noted that salary expectations were on the rise. “We are seeing anything between a 3% to 10% hike depending on the skills and sector. The higher end of the scale is particularly relevant to the IT sector where there are vast shortages of key skills and candidates willing to move,” he said.

It is a sentiment echoed by Denis Casey, commercial director, Brightwater Recruitment: “In our Cork office alone we are looking at 14 extra hires over the coming months. The greater demand has been in the IT, financials and pharmaceutical sectors, but also a return of expansion in construction and engineering that is particularly gratifying after so many years of zero growth.”

Major companies which endured mainly dormant activity over the past number of years are once again seeking to fill positions in specific areas, including construction managers and project leaders — activity last seen in 2007.

“Part of what we are doing now is reaching out to many of those people who left Ireland out of necessity over recent years to Canada, Australia and other points on the globe with the news that the picture has changed and the situation has turned around,” he says. “There is a large amount of building development coming on stream. Here in Cork, for instance, the Albert Quay development has begun, as have a number of other commercial projects. Also, its is expected that the Cork to Limerick motorway will get the green light sometime in the near future — all of which will deliver a badly needed boost to a sector that experienced such a terrible blow starting in 2008.”

In the accountancy and finance space, the multinationals are on a recruitment curve that has not been seen before, Mr Casey points out. Candidates with language skills in addition to their financial degrees are highly sought after: “Many of the inward investment multinational companies over the last eighteen months have been bringing their shared services centres to Cork, and the city is getting a name for this activity now. We have a large and qualified candidate base here with suitable language skills, which is an attractive option for companies thinking of centralising their sales or accountancy departments, R&D and HR in specific areas.

“Pooling all these depots across Europe into one centralised location makes efficient economic sense for a co-ordinated approach to invoicing, HR policies, credit control. Language skills are vital in that staff will be dealing with a variety of languages from the company’s bases around Europe and the world,” he adds. Looking to the coming year and beyond, Denis Casey sees a continuation of the current optimistic economic sentiment to prevail.

“Many of our clients have already begun their plans for 2015, and from this we can clearly see that it will be a very strong year. The key strategy of the majority of companies we are talking with at the moment is hiring significantly, with extensive increases across the board. Ireland would have a key sentiment throughout Europe and the world as being highly skilled,” he says. “Also there are large numbers of start up companies that are gearing up very quickly, and this adds to a more competitive marketplace — all of which benefits potential candidates in being treated in a professional manner by employers.”

Universities and third level institutions have formed ties with multinationals and are listening to the needs of major employers — a key foundation in a relationship that continues to yield economic benefits.

“The dialogue between universities and companies ensures graduates have a job waiting when their courses finish in four years,” he says. And because the institutions have facilitated those companies with a ready supply of graduates, it contributes to ensuring that that they will remain in Ireland.”

Major firms are once again seeking to fill positions in specific areas

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