The IT industry is recovering but certain sectors hold more promise for graduates during an era of austerity.
The recent headlines on job prospects for graduates may be stark but if you’re looking for a career in IT, the future’s bright. Despite the dire warnings of a new era of austerity, graduates heading for IT are better placed than their peers when it comes to the jobs market.
IT a good prospect
According to e-skills, the government agency responsible for growing IT skills in the UK, the sector’s workforce is growing at a rate of 1.2 per cent: "That’s four times the rate of other sectors", points out Karen Price, CEO of e-skills.
That may seem a modest percentage but employers are currently recruiting 75% more graduates than in the summer of 2009. Meanwhile, the number of applicants per job has halved.
At the coalface of recruitment, the agencies tend to agree with this upbeat view: "In the last six months, clients have been asking us to source graduates, whereas previously, they’ve had the pick of the crop for the number of jobs available. We’re back at the position we were in two years ago", confirms Sean Young, head of permanent recruitment at Spring Technology.
Finance strongest sector
However, no one is denying that times are tough and it makes sense to be realistic and smart about where you choose to apply.
Technology underpins the economy to an ever-increasing degree, in some sectors more than others. "Finance and banking has bounced back", says Young; a strong mix of soft and technical skills is your passport to a job in the City.
Public sector still hiring
Controversially, Spring Technology predicts that there will be plenty of hiring activity in the public sector, including for entry-level graduate roles. The development and maintenance of the government's financial, marketing and payroll systems has to continue after all, even in the so-called austerity era, which will impact the public sector the most severely.
However, warns Young, these graduate roles may be presented in the form of short-term contracts of between three and six months. The length of the contract is not a reflection of the temporary nature of the work involved, but is more to do with budgeting models.
Such contracts present graduates with a golden ‘try before you buy’ opportunity.
David Bloxham, director of recruitment services at GCS, says that many public sector IT jobs will shift from government departments to the big third party suppliers that specialise in the sector, meaning more opportunities with the likes of of Northgate, Capita and CFS.
His other tip to graduates is to respond to soaring demand for web economy skills. As more business is transacted on the move from devices such as the iPhone, rather than from the desktop located in a traditional office, app development has soared. "In the past 12 months, iPhone developers have been the most requested role and skills", affirms Bloxham.
Make it fast-moving
Alan Bellinger, executive consultant to the Institute of IT Training (IITT), advises recent graduates to pick a sector that is on the move. As well as finance, "retail is regenerating well while food and booze retailers are always resilient. Telecoms is also a fast moving business", he recommends.
Additionally, graduates would be wise to consider some niche areas e.g. in the gaming industry and online betting, with technology playing the pivotal role in both.
The gaming industry employs between 25,000 and 30,000 in the UK of whom 30% are programmers. In this tech-heavy niche, C++ is the language of choice, but other variants of C and Java are also used, according to Tony Bickley, chief operating officer of the Train2Game training outfit.
Whichever sector takes your fancy and whichever role, be it programmer, network manager, database analyst, security or business consultant, every IT expert agrees on one thing: your soft skills should be your calling card. IT skills are a given, and you need to burnish them to stand to from the crowd.
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