back to article IT pay jumps as skills gap widens

The IT skills shortage in the UK is being made worse by the routine offshoring of entry-level tech jobs. Income Data Services’ (IDC) latest findings on IT pay for 2008 shows that offshoring low-levels IT jobs to the likes of China and India has led to fewer graduate opportunities because firms are reluctant to invest in their …

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Pirate

The irony, it burns us

Yeah, fab, pump out more over-qualified people for techie jobs - you need a CS degree for systems architecture and maybe programming, not for administration and desktop support - and then refuse to hire them because they lack experience.

Meanwhile, the CBI is outsourcing all those entry-level jobs that junior techies could be using to gain that much-needed experience.

Also, pay and requirements is a joke. If I was going to take a job that required in-depth networking knowledge, systems administration and some programming (in more than one language, often), I'd want to be paid more than 20K in London. Whoever does the hiring should get real about what skills they actually require for the role, not just try and replace the poor sod who did everything by themselves for a pittance, and then got jack of it.

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Alien

I've dealt with these "offshore" techies

Offshore techies are to ability what shit is to Chocolate mouse – you whip it up and it can look similar, and even fit in the same spaces, but the effect and end result are vastly different.

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Boffin

Work in Europe is not bad...

...but you have to be prepared to learn another language. Rates are good in Europe - and if you're good, you shouldn't have much difficulty in finding something around the €600/day mark. But you do need to be good...

I'm also with Sir Runcible Spoon on this: You need to have good, practical knowledge of how things work, to be a contractor. Preferably at the electronic level, and definitely at the logical hardware level (bits, bytes, endianism, registers, interrupts, etc). There are too many people who haven't learned the basics, and are trying to do the equivalent of servicing a car engine without knowing the principles of the four-stroke combustion process. (Actually, most people I know don't even know about things like that, whether they are mechanics or not!)

Most people I know coming out of University can't program in any form of assembly language. More and more graduates also know only Java, as if that was enough. It's no surprise that, when faced with a system performance issue, most are stumped. Many cannot even program in a language like C, even less assembly language. These people will say "Ah, but Java is as fast as C these days" - and wonder why they get strange looks. Asking these people to try and debug a buffer overflow is like asking your cat to do your laundry: It's not going to happen.

I agree with Ishkandar - employers are also to blame, largely for being too damn cheap. Since very few companies these days want to actually spend money on training staff (everyone is now run by Finance monkeys, who see the cost of everything and the value of nothing), very few staff are getting trained. As a consequence, nobody gets promoted to the next level - so the next-level resources are getting scarcer and scarcer (and consequently more and more expensive!) Unfortunately, this is the result of so much outsourcing - companies wanted to try and make everything a lot cheaper in the short term. However, IT is a zero-sum game: Costs saved somewhere are usually gained elsewhere, especially if you do not plan ahead.

With IT also being the unstable animal it is, frequent retraining is also required - because there is always a shiny new toy coming out that companies want to use. Career-wise, I started out as a software engineer, went into configuration management - and I'm now a UNIX systems administrator picking up Security Officer skills. I expect to have to change in another 2-3 years as well...

I've seen the odd employer waking up to the realities of training new staff, though - but only here in Germany. I've seen several new sysadmin jobs, where they want to take someone on for €40k who has no experience - but the company will train them in Solaris, etc. However, one has to ask the question - what happens when the person hired knows enough to move to the next level? When you're offered a 5x pay raise (in real terms) by a competitor, do you think most people are going to be sticking around for a mere 20% of what they could be earning?

Basic lesson is, companies have to recognise value - and pay for it.

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Some advice for people starting out

Disclaimer : I started in the internet field just when it started, so my view may be skewed. Treat with caution :)

Advice : It's all very well focussing on the technology (it's what IT is all about after all isn't it? ). No. I have been successful because of my attitude. I know this because although I am quite clever, I don't bother keeping up with all the latest techologies unless it slaps me in the face as an immediate requirement - therefore I learnt to learn quickly and be able to apply that knowledge as I'm learning it.

A 'can do' attitude is pretty rare these days, so go for that and you will build a reputation for yourself. Keep your contacts - the IT world is *very* small in real terms. Don't fuck anyone over to get to the top coz you *will* meet them again :) Don't be stingy with your knowledge, if people require help, help them and they will help you when you are stuck (very important as you can't know everything -or in my case, anything).

I recently started a contract in the City for a financial firm (usually hard roles to pick up if you haven't worked in one before). The attitude of the permies when I started was that they expected me to be a 'typical' contractor. This was an eye opener for me because I didn't know what a typical contractor was supposed to be. Suffice to say that they thought I would be a work-shy take-the-money-and-run fuckwit.

Happy to say they now treat me like any other permie. There's still the old pay difference axe-to-grind issue, but they are more accepting of it because I make a difference. If I run short of work I look for ways in which I can help the team become more efficient. Do some of the shit work (audits and process documentation) that no-one else wants to do - they'll love you for it because it means they don't have to do it. After all, for the money they're paying me I'd clean the toilets with a toothbrush. In fact I said that in the interview.

Good attitude = something not many others have = tradeable skill.

Good luck.

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Stop

RE: Hard to get a job? By Mike Dyne

Totally agree.

I left school at 16 (6 years ago), got my first full-time job at 18 and was in an IT role just under three years later, and earned good money along the way.

And, surprise surprise, the most reliable way to maximize your income is to MOVE TO A DIFFERENT COMPANY, not sit around moaning about rises/inflation.

There is a perfectly good gateway industry to IT, and it is called Commercial/Transactional Printing ;)

Alternatively, this is all the advice you need;

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2002/07/29/the_bofh_desidoreplicator/

:D

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Recruitment process to blame

I have recently been unemployed for over a year and a half despite having great knowledge of MS systems, SAN storage, Web development, virtulisation, heavy duty scale load balancing and redundancy as well as a CS Degree. Basically everything a mid to large enterprise needs from a high end sysadmin.

Yet after the job I was originally moving to fell through, no one would touch me because of the gap. When I went after sysadmin jobs they would tell me they needed an MCSE despite years of actual experience. In the end I did what the job center advised and lied about the gap and luckily I had the cash to go and do the MCSE using resources from the net. (which only took 2 weeks because I already had the knowledge).

I tried for much lower paid jobs doing web development and recruiters who didn't have a clue came out with ridiculous reasons like I did not have xhtml listed or stylesheets. It would be great if even if they don't have any technical skill that they could learn some basics like the fact that CSS is stylesheets. Then if you list both they complain that you are just listing technologies and not saying what you did with them.

I was often sent to interviews for jobs based on completely different skills than I had listed and employees were often complaining that they were sent the wrong types of people.

And employers themselves often didn't know what they wanted. A technical guy would ask some questions which if they were relevant I would do well at and then some HR person would ask things about giving a presentation or dealing with some completely unlikey conflict between imaginary collegues that you wouldn't even get involved in in the first place.

And then if you got through all that, a lot of companies despite acknowledging that I had all the skills they were after would say I was asking too much because I didn't have x qualification or because I had not worked for a while. Completely ignoring the fact that they had been impressed by y skill which was something extra that they could do with. And it would be a straight no, no negotiation or discussion about what salary would be reasonable or why.

It seems to me that recruiters/companies are being entirely too picky about skills which are irrelevant or a bonus and not picky enough (or not skilled enough to ask the right questions) about the actual technical skills. And not being prepared to take on people who need to learn or switch to a technology. (eg. an experienced programmer who transfers from Java to C# may well be a lot better within weeks than a noob who has written an app in C# already)

Luckily it ended well for me, I was offered a reasonable salary by a company who knew one of my previous employers and snapped me up as soon as they finally got my CV (It took the recruiter 2 months to decide to put me forward!) I am more than capable of doing the job and they seem as happy about it as I am.

So my advice is avoid recruiters, take a chance on someone who is smart but doesn't have quite the right skillset, if you are going to ask questions, ask about general concepts to make sure they have a good background rather than specifics about x function of y technology or 'which menu is the v option in w application'. Its tempting to use any excuse to rule someone out when you have a lot of CVs to go through, but you may well be overlooking just the person you need.

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@Dan: It's time to give up

I've been programming since I was 5 (ok it was basic but we all start somewhere). I taught myself assembly language on the z80 (a ZX spectrum) when I was about 10 and a bit of 6502 when I was a teenager. Aside from some laptops, a 2nd hand IBM PS/2 and a SparcStation I've never owned a computer I didn't build myself.

I passed 4 A levels, went to uni, studied maths, taught myself C at uni, and picked up linux, shell scripting & perl in my spare time while working for £2.50/hr in a computer factory where among other things I diagnosed broken motherboards using an oscilliscope so they could be sent back to the supplier for a refund. I lucked into a better techie job working and after a few years I left it to go contracting.

That was about 10 years ago. Since then I've worked as a contractor and have years of *commercial* experience with both oracle & SQL Server as both DBA and developer, as well as unix & windows admin, networking (I've written perl scripts to auto configure cisco routers for a big ISP), C development on Unix and about 5 years of Java EE (which I also taught myself), XML, XSL, Web Services and so on as well as basic web design. I've done a bit of c# .Net, I once built a website using php and I have run maintained my own DNS, mail and web servers for several years (I picked this up working for ISPs).

Unfortunately most of these skills have been developed and used in conjunction with a popular software suite that runs on said OS, uses said databases and integrates with other systems through the use of C and Java. Which means they count for *shit all* when I apply for a job.

Because I haven't used popular suite v7 much (ok and because with a family I just can't afford to work for some of the sub 30k wages I've seen advertised) I've been unemployed for months. I don't even get called back by the agencies most of the time. The fact that I have used every version since v2 counts for nothing. The fact that I can diagnose oracle performance issues by writing queries in SQL Plus counts for nothing. The fact that I can point out that Java and Javascript aren't the same thing but I still use both counts for nothing.

The primary skill shortage in this country is in management, who are generally so clueless as to how IT systems, and particularly people, actually work that they are forced to blindly tick a list of procedural boxes in the hope that it will be enough to cover their arse in the event of a shit-fan collision. Within most organisations technical staff, however multitalented, are pigeonholed into neat little boxes, not allowed to perform functions outside of their silo and often not allowed to interact except through formal processes. An ability to learn and adapt without recourse to formal training goes largely unacknowledged, taking the initiative is frowned upon and a willingness or desire to do things outside of ones formally recognised sphere of expertise is considered dangerous.

In the past, while working for a FTSE 100 company, I have specced a server, taken delivery, fitted the extra processors and RAM, racked it, set up the network, and installed and configured the OS, database, application server, and the app itself. I doubt there is a single listed company that would *allow* a single member of staff to do that these days.

The days of my old boss 'logging on and restarting the process' to fix a problem because he'd got in before the rest of the team are long gone. These days he'd be disciplined by senior management for having his own login.

This is how "IT Best Practice" is implemented in practice when management lack the technical nous to recognise and properly exploit the talented.

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Bah! Entry level indeed.

I quit school at 16 to go an work as a programmer. I got a job on a support desk for a year, before going to work for a web design company. Since then I have changed jobs twice, and dispite my age, each time was a major step up. I now hold a senior position in a company specialising in bespoke financial software.

So I came in at an "entry level", and have never had a problem advancing my career, not once did I lose a job to an outsourced firm. So from my perspective, there is no problem.

Over the years, I've worked with a great many graduates, on their first year out of Uni. Now of course there are exceptions, but I have found that the vast majority are not particularly good at their jobs.

It is little wonder employers insist on commercial experiance, because from what I've seen Uni doesn't prepare you for the commercial world and I'm not talking about business procedures here, I'm talking about basic programming skills. Sure they might be able to draw a tree in Matlab, but ask them to write a CMS system and they'll reel off some barely-related-jargon and disappear for a week before admitting defeat.

My point is, I don't think there is so much a problem with entry level IT in this country, as there is with entry level programmers in this country.

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Paris Hilton

What Rubbish is all of this???

The trick is... to have a brain, a personality, and sometimes, a current job helps.

When I left university a scant 3 years ago, it took me 6 months to find a temp job in IT, this was as I lacked the experience that everyone is talking about above. I have a 3rd class honours in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence from a well respected university. After two weeks as a temp, I was taken on permanently, on about that quoted average for IT support tecchies. Apparently 2 weeks is enough experience if they can see you have aptitude for a job. 8 months later, they promoted me to a job that would normally require 5 years experience (not 8 months), and almost doubled that salary.

I recently got fed up, (about 2 years down the line) wanted to focus more on the systems I enjoyed, and decided to post my CV on the internet. Less than two weeks after posting my CV, I'd had a job interview with a company known and respected worldwide, and accepted their job offer. I'll be moving to a place with a lower cost of living, and maintaining the same salary I was paid when I was living on the edge of London. I will also be working exclusively on the system of my choice, the IBM iSeries/AS400/System i, whatever you want to call it (IBM don't know what to call it, thats for sure).

I was hired for my mainframe job despite in my interview saying 'I've never touched one before, and I'd never seen one before a fortnight ago', and 8 months later I was the Analyst in charge of the system. Show some skills, you'll find a job. Show a lack of aptitude, a negative attitude, or fail to know the difference between a DLT and an Ultrium backup tape at a backup administrator interview, and you wont.

Paris 'cause she could find a job in any IT department in the land....

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Coat

Management

Well, if management is so crap, it'd be best to go into that instead of IT...

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Heart

too many chumps floating around

I came to the UK as a backpacker, after a few months of working in bars i decided to do a bit of contracting (2004, it was £40/hr and I was 21 years old, no degree, just 2 years of intensive experience, I got that by working for FREE to get my foot in). I was lucky that the company and I got on well and they continued to contract me to different customer's sites for the next few years. I have literally travelled the world at their expense and continue to enjoy working in the UK (with inflation beating rates).

I always considered myself lucky but after working in countless IT teams with various customers all over the world & UK, I was not impressed with the level of competency from the majority of development teams here (and that includes offshore teams), in most cases there are 1 or 2 guys worth their salt but most are real numpties.

thaaank you great britain! please dont stop funding my adventures! I still have many women to meet and places to see ;-)

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simple answer...

Once the CBI figure out how to get 2+ years commercial experience of a technology without being able to get a job using it, it'll all be sorted.

Could do with a decent apprenticeship scheme, so that graduates could get a _basic_ job with _basic_ requirements for minimum wage.

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Degree not worth the paper it's printed on?

I concur with the theme that seems to be running here - a good degree alone (or even at all) is not necessarily worth much...

I did a BSc in CS and managed to get a First, which was nice, but the amount of interviews I did before landing a job was scary. Luckily I'd a few things backing me up, which sealed the deal. During college I had gotten summer jobs working as a junior programmer for a small firm that produced financial software. I'm slightly ashamed to say that even after 2 years of the (4 year) course I only heard what the registry was during the work. I did the same again after 3rd year, then during final year I worked in a call centre (not IT related). I managed to convince the manager that my time would be better spent writing some software to them that would analyse and present stats to them, than if I was answering calls. He agreed, so I did that.

While seemingly small things these summer jobs and blagged experience was what got my foot in the door, I later found out just how - my first real job was with a large, well known consulting firm. Within a few weeks I was given a task by an overworked HR person to vet some new graduate CVs - I was given strict criteria - bin them if they didn't have a 2.0 degree at least (so that's only the first step) then they needed some form of practical experience, a willingness to travel, also extra activities that weren't IT related - so if your hobby was "running own server farm" you were ditched. And then the hard to quantify "fit with the company culture". Following these rules I had to ditch at least one outstanding CV - the guy had a first, a masters, loads of decent lab experience - but still didn't make the grade.

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Obvious solution

Surely the solution to the degree and no experience problem has been presented?

When I did my degree (13 years ago) I did a sandwich course. I did a maths degree and got a job for a year at Lockheed Martin. It was fantastic, I learned Visual C++ and that year (with good references) allowed me to pick up a job as soon as I left uni.

Maybe things have changed from that now, I do not know. However, the years experience that you get from that kind of course is invaluable!

Another thing I was told by a HR interviewer after I got another job was that I was interviewed because my CV contained things that I did outside of work and was successful at e.g. senior grade in martial arts and international softball player. These things show that you can get your arse in gear.

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