9 Hot Skills for 2012

IT hiring ticks up for the third straight year, and IT pros with programming skills will be first in line for jobs.

Slowly but surely, many U.S. companies are loosening their viselike grips on IT hiring and looking to add new staffers to bolster business growth in the year ahead.

That trend is reflected in Computerworld's annual Forecast survey. Nearly 29% of the 353 IT executives polled said they plan to increase IT staffing through next summer. That's up from 23% in the 2010 survey and 20% in the 2009 survey. Altogether, it's a 45% increase in hiring expectations over the past two years.

"We're seeing [strong hiring] across the board," among organizations of all sizes, says Mike McBrierty, chief operations officer for the technology staffing division of Eliassen Group, an IT recruiting firm. He says there has been pent-up demand for infrastructure upgrades and investments that had been shelved over the previous three years.

The Forecast survey also revealed that IT managers may be thinking about innovation, not merely keeping the lights on, as they plan their staffs for 2012. Respondents said these nine skills will be in demand.

1. Programming and Application Development

61% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months, up from 44% in the 2010 survey.

This large year-over-year jump doesn't surprise people like John Reed, executive director of staffing firm Robert Half Technology, who sees demand for a variety of skills in areas ranging from website development to upgrading internal systems and meeting the needs of mobile users. "Web development continues to be very strong" as companies try to improve the user experience, he says, adding that there will also be a lot of effort to develop mobile technologies to improve customer access via smartphones.

Mobile application development is especially hot in healthcare, says Randy Bankes, associate director of IT at Lehigh Valley Health Network, a multicampus healthcare system in Allentown, Pa. Bankes says he's had a "god-awful hard time" trying to hire people with skills in mobile technologies. "It's competitive as hell right now," says Bankes.

Bill Predmore, director of enterprise application support at the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Austin, also sees growth in mobile technology, especially in the transportation industry. "There's more and more of a push to implement whiz-bang Web stuff, along with making trip planners, [bus and train] route data and schedule data presentable on mobile devices," he says.

2. Project Management

44% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months, up from 43% in the 2010 survey.

Big projects need managers, but they also need business analysts who can identify users' needs and translate them for the IT staffers who have to meet those needs and complete projects on time. "The demand has been more for business analysts than project managers," Reed says -- in other words, those who can help deliver projects rather than merely oversee and monitor them.

That's what Sean Masters discovered when he embarked on a job search in March. "When I was framing myself as a systems, network, security or other administrator role, I was hardly getting any attention," says the IT professional from Worcester, Mass. "As soon as I shifted my résumé to list those specific technologies used in accomplishing specific projects, I was suddenly framing myself as an engineer who could not only manage systems, but also plan, design and implement them."

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