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Mainstream Companies Seek Charming Programmers

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Are you a charmer with strong programming skills? Can you find happiness
toiling in the IT department of a manufacturer or transportation company? Then
American businesses would like to meet you.

Non-IT companies added the overwhelming majority of IT workers from 2003
to 2004 — and they were more interested in candidates with good
interpersonal skills than in those with project management or team building

These findings are among the survey results by the Information
Technology Association of America (ITAA), a trade association serving the
information technology industry. Its Annual Workforce Development Survey
garners responses from a random sampling of 500 hiring managers in the United States.

In the course of the survey, the ITAA found that
the overall size of the IT workforce has grown slightly from 2003 to 2004,
from approximately 10.3 million workers to 10.5 million workers, and non-IT
companies represented 79 percent of employment for technical workers.

Programmers remained the largest single group of IT workers, although
their head count actually dropped slightly in the past year, down almost
30,000 jobs. That’s not the only number that fell: While workforce size has
increased, demand for IT workers continues to drop. Hiring managers
indicated that they will seek to fill approximately 230,000 jobs this
year — compared to almost 500,000 last year.

Technical support and network system design pros saw the largest
year-to-year increases in employment, with both up five percent.

Tech support pros must be able to troubleshoot; analyze requirements; facilitate
remedial action and customer service; install and configure new systems;
perform systems monitoring; optimization and diagnostics; test and retest;
and develop documentation. In the next three to five years, information
security is the area with the greatest job growth potential.

The ITAA said that employers are most interested in previous experience
in a related field and a four-year college degree in a related field. Once
on the job, hiring managers said the best ways to get ahead are
participation in formal on the job training (56 percent) and certification
programs (55 percent). Seventy-one percent of survey respondents said
certification or continuing education is either important or very important
for advancement.

Companies said they expected to hold their employees for 30 months, four
months longer than the retention expectations measured in 2002, mostly with
the lure of a good overall compensation plan.

But landing that secure staff position won’t be so easy for peripatetic
IT professionals, the ITAA found. This cost-cutting, cautious environment
means hiring managers are taking a hard look at whether they need to staff
up in the first place; when they do, they demand productivity and
contribution to the bottom line.

“Competitive pressure is an issue for employees and employers alike,” the
report concluded. “To be successful, IT workers must make themselves as
valuable as possible to hiring companies. They must also make themselves the
stewards of their own careers.”

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