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IT jobs market booms, but talent in short supply

Many companies need to fill IT jobs this year, but there's a shortage of available talent, and many haven't figured out the mobile skills they need.

Most companies expect a difficult IT hiring environment in 2015, as many open positions demand a level of skill that few in the IT jobs market have.

Depending on how you slice the numbers in CompTIA's IT Industry Outlook 2015 survey of 649 companies in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., the IT hiring environment  has both good and bad aspects. There were 4.88 million IT workers in the U.S. at the end of 2014, up 2.4% (about 116,000 jobs) from 2013. That's up from a 2.1% growth in 2013. National job growth across the entire economy in 2013 was up 1.5-1.8% by comparison, CompTIA said.

Web developers saw the largest growth among IT occupations in 2014 at 4%, followed by information security analysts, computer systems analysts, application developers and systems software developers, according to CompTIA's report.

Demands for enterprise mobility in that group include information security and application development. But when it comes to mobile management, companies are still unsure of how to find the right personnel, said Tim Herbert, CompTIA's vice president for research and market analysis.

"Companies are asking, 'How does [mobility] relate to support or other positions in the organization of the company, or does it introduce some demand for new skills?'" he said.

CompTIA also studied the top skills cited in 2014 IT job postings, tracking the skills mentioned in over 2.2 million postings in the U.S. The top skills cited were, in order, SQL, Java, Oracle, JavaScript and Linux. The top five job titles were, in order, software development engineer, Java software developer, systems engineer, network engineer and .NET developer. Application developers were 10th overall.

Despite these positive gains, companies still find it difficult to get the right people to fill open IT jobs. Forty-two percent of companies said their IT departments were understaffed, Herbert said.

Many companies believe the competition around talent will intensify.
Tim Herbertresearch VP, CompTIA

"There is still some pent-up demand for hiring and that's a carryover from the last couple years," Herbert said. "We're continuing to see a broad-based demand for these services across the economy."

As a result, 68% of executives at IT companies believe they will have a challenging or very challenging time in the IT hiring market in 2015, according to CompTIA's survey.

"Many companies believe the competition around talent will intensify," Herbert said.

 Senior managers who work with IT pros must have good technical chops and in many instances that's not always the case, said Craig Mathias, founder of wireless advisory firm the Farpoint Group in Ashland, Mass.

"There are not enough really good people working in the field," Mathias said. "I get calls several times a week from clients who are looking for people to hire."

Simon Bramfitt, a virtualization analyst at Entelechy Associates in Concord, Calif., has also heard from recruiters in search of IT talent.

"They ask, 'We need someone to fill this part or role, do you know anybody?'" he said. "My response for the last year, or even longer than that, has almost universally been, 'I'm sorry, but everyone I know is working.'"

While automated systems have helped companies manage support requests with limited IT staff, there's still a glaring need for tech support professionals when things go wrong, Mathias said.

"The productivity lost due to downtime, as well as confusion or errors caused by staff not being trained, there are serious costs there," he said.

Older Citrix certifications in demand

In some instances, demand for skills in today's IT hiring market extends to certifications that aren't even available.

Research firm Foote Partners LLC of Vero Beach, Fla., tracked the fastest-growing IT certifications in terms of cash bonuses paid out to nearly 55,000 IT professionals at 2,688 companies in the final six months of 2014.

The Citrix Certified Enterprise Engineer (CCEE) for Virtualization certification was first in the Foote Partners survey, followed by CompTIA Security+, Citrix Certified Enterprise Administrator (CCEA), GIAC Certified Windows Security Administrator and CWNP/Certified Wireless Design Professional.

Both of the in-demand Citrix certifications are no longer attainable. The Citrix CCEE for Virtualization was retired in November 2014 and replaced with a new certification, Citrix Certified Professional-Virtualization. The CCEA was retired in 2012 and replaced with the CCEE for Virtualization.

Citrix's previous system worked when the company had a "narrow" product set, but now it's been refocused around new technologies, said Bramfitt.

Older Citrix certifications may be in demand now, but that's only a symptom of companies needing to eventually catch up to the latest available certifications, he said.

"There's lag in the system with recruiting based on older exams and certifications because that's what people have out there," he said.

Citrix's products are complicated platforms and employers look to extract maximum value from those platforms by bringing in people with provable certifications, Bramfitt added.

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