Recent research predicted that IT work in New Zealand might be outsourced to cheaper countries. For SMEs wanting to know the current trends in the IT sector, a leading IT recruiter says the number of jobs have increased from 43,000 to 46,000 over the past five years and the sector continues to thrive.
What is the state of the IT sector in NZ at the moment?
IT is the only industry that has continued to grow during tough times despite the fact that some businesses have been more cautious about hiring and putting big projects on hold. Across every sector, from wine, marine and manufacturing to retail and professional services, the use and application of IT is increasing by leaps and bounds.
It's no longer just about having a person sitting on a mainframe in a bank basement, IT skill sets are imperative at every level of business from marketing/social media through to the strategic planning of future projects. Kiwis are highly regarded worldwide as IT innovators and professionals with broad skill sets and the ability to manage complex projects.
What do you think about predictions that IT jobs will dry up over the next five years because of increased "off-shoring" and use of internet services?
Nothing could be further from the truth. IT is increasingly about the user experience, whether that's via personal devices or management of complex mission-critical IT solutions through to call centre operators. It demands close-to-customer service which you don't get from someone sitting in India.
That said, off-shoring has its place and always has had, but it's certainly not going to dry jobs up here. We're actually seeing more jobs in areas such as call centres being reallocated to New Zealand because it provides better value for customers. People in this industry are not a commodity but a very valuable resource that can't be "off-shored".
Furthermore, IT salaries are rising rapidly throughout Asia and India so the labour is not necessarily cheaper there. An entry level worker in India, for instance, is getting around US$25,000 now with a rise of 20 per cent to 30 per cent every year.
What are the trends in terms of IT services businesses are seeking?
There is an overwhelming demand for developers and subsequently testing requirements, information and software architects. Right now, we have more than 100 vacancies for developers within our business and more than 500 spread among the industry.
While global uncertainty has made businesses a little more cautious in their hiring over the last year, we're seeing companies starting to pick on projects they'd put on hold earlier in the year.
Organisations are using technology to increase efficiency, to enhance and develop their service and for any complex solution in particular, whether it be for government or a small business, it demands skilled, close-quarter service.
What are businesses looking for in new recruits?
It's very much about the soft skills, the ability to work alongside a team, to understand and meet customer needs and communicate ideas and concepts coherently. It's definitely not an industry for geeks.
So just because you have an IT background doesn't mean you'll be guaranteed a job. The need is for people with technology skills as well as an understanding of business, marketing and what drives customer needs.
What is happening to New Zealand's IT businesses?
New Zealand IT businesses are hugely successful in developing niche software products, both for export and local markets.
Consider some of our accounting products for example, such as Xero which now has a major customer base offshore.