back to article IT career virgins need a cherry on top

Any Reg readers looking to change their job or simply start work their career will be left confused by the latest batch of news from UK recruitment experts. For those who still haven’t decided what to do on leaving university, the news from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) is relatively good. According to its …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Have you got that as a Spreadsheet?

    oh, and I STILL don't know what I want to do after I leave college (and that was in 1987).

  2. Jonny Leigh

    C+ or Java

    So all the C++ programmers are safe.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    You have a degree in computer science ?

    Great, now repeat after me please, "Do you want fries with that?"

  4. Ian

    Handy things to know about

    27001 and 25999. And if you've actually done a complete certification cycle in one (or better both), that's good.

  5. Neil

    C+ ??

    Is that some kind of semi-OO version of C?

  6. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge
    Stop

    I wouldn't believe...

    A word of anything that comes from the mouths of recruitment agencies.

    In my opinion (as an IT contractor) it looks as though the number of contract roles seeking very specific skills has gone up as during financial downturns, companies tend to consolidate on what they already have in place, rather then investing in new technologies, which is why the number of project management / consultancy / service management and architectural roles seems to be right down at the moment.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One more thing...

    even some select government departments seem to have worked out that if they employ individuals rather than consultancies, they can sack the crap ones, not to mention saving > £400 a day each, and if they've worked it out, private industry has.

    Everyone's basically worked out that consultancies send in geniuses to land the contract then employ kids to do the work. How people fall for this proposition astounds me, and is why I can't work for the average consultancy. As for management consultant? What's this all about? The only people who get anything out of it, are the personnel who get free lunches, (except the company pays a million quid a meal for it,) and the consultancies who get the 20 million.

    It is, at the end of the day, the same person doing the same work.

  8. Ben Schofield

    Students < Monkeys

    "Whether this is quite what the UK educational system is now producing is a question for another day."

    Yes, no.

    As a uni student and also currently employed in IT, I can tell you that most of the courses are between 'general' and 'specific'. For instance, take a programming course, you'll do (normally) C+, .NET, Java and, in the early stages, VB. Specific in the way that 'programming' is a specific sector in IT, but the studies are too general to be useful in any one language, if any use in industry at all.

    The same for networking and the same for management.

    Also the same for any course with the word 'IT' in it, which is a course in how to become a smart-arse user flexing your Excel skills, without ever being taught how to install an application.

    Whichever way you look at it, general or specific courses, there's no way I'd give any computing or IT student I've met the reigns to any network or system I oversee. Most students can't find their own face in a mirror, let alone run the core of a company.

    There is no bias here, I am a BSc computing student at a reputable university. It's shocking to see the degrees that people walk away with without the most fundamental boxes ticked in the 'I can use a computer' category.

    B

  9. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Development Associates

    Big companies don't want specialist developers because all the coding is done offshore!

    They want people who understand the procedures, who can write the specifications for the companies Indian / Eastern European / South American development centre to follow.

    A large bucket of patience with foreign accents and immunity to corporate bullshit also helps!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Starting on £25k?!

    I started working for the wrong company!

  11. Rafael

    Programming languages skills

    "with some of the biggest reductions in salary identified for jobs featuring C+ or Java in the title. "

    Sure, who wants to hire a C+ programmer? Java programmers are also a dime a dozen, unless you need one who can read and not only fiddle with a IDE GUI designer.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Starting salaries...

    ...are catching up with me, I'll have to go back to school soon.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    IT Job Adverts...

    ...often crack me up. The skill sets required or 'advantageous' for some fairly junior positions are often unbelievable.

    This is an actual advert ;)

    Systems Analyst Sought: Home Counties

    Local 2-bit company with few long term prospects seek an experienced IT professional to take full reponsibility for anything with a chip in it.

    Must have at least 5 years supervisory experience as you will be required to train and develop others. (Michael, the MD's son on summer work experience).

    You will have sound working knowledge of SQL, C++, citrix, cisco and anything else we find when copying someone elses advert (as we have no idea what we actually want or need)

    You will hold a degree in a computing subject and be MCSE qualified (we don't have any training budget so you better know your sh*t. Again, we don't know nor care what MCSE is or whether it's any real world use - it was on another advert ok)

    While not formerly essential (but actually essential as there will be 50+ applicants) you will also be fluent in French, Spannish, Japanese and Scottish.

    You must have excellent people skills as you'll be helping everyone but at the same time be not be too ambitous or inclined to poke your nose in middle management affairs.

    As well as being responsible for running the WHOLE F8CKING SHOW on a shoestring, and taking all the flack the moment anything goes wrong, you will also have workable solutions to Global Warming and long term peace in the Middle East.

    Competitive Salary (to £15,000, pay award pending)

    The reality is my friends is that few other industry sector require so much knowledge and skill sets for such mediocre rewards. Sadly, too many employers still see IT for the expense and not the opportunity.

  14. Jon Press
    Paris Hilton

    Employers now want IT generalists

    Unfortunately, that would require the recruitment people (HR or agencies) to have a basic clue about the sector. Product-based box-ticking requirements are going to be around for a long time because (a) it's what the recruiters understand and (b) it's the process that recruited the hiring managers and they don't want to hire people with more broadly-applicable skills than they have themselves...

    Paris, because I'm sure there's also an increase in the numbers applying to tick her box...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I don't want no Java...

    Well actually I do, but I also want people who understand .Net.

    As a technical consultant and a line manager within a major IT company I find that junior staff who only want to be in one camp a pain. My Ideal graduate would know Windows, Unix, Java, VB, C#, Oracle, and SQL*Server and not give a stuff which they work in, in reality 75% are zealots for one camp or another, and leave if you try to get them to do something else.

    Worse still graduates tend to think they can be Architects or Project Managers in three years, or they leave. Still it's worse offshore, their cycle is around 18 months if they are lucky.

    Ultimately there is no substitute for experience and the really techies are those with 20 years of experience who not only know the technology, but the business as well. UK PLC wants all the low level stuff shipped offshore to keep costs down, so its not really surprising that we aren't generating enough home grown tallent.

    I graduated in 1978 and I still don't know what I want to do, but at least I'm well paid, and I probably won't have to retire.

  16. Torben Mogensen

    C++ and Java

    This should teach those students that complain(ed) about learning other languages than C++ or Java, because that was all they would ever need in industry.

    And it should teach those universities and other IT-educators who think you need only teach the students one programming language.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting...

    Speaking as a Physics & Computing graduate, with over 28 years programming experience in pretty much every language & technology, and every sector from water cooled, realtime rocket science to marketing, and every job description from troubleshooter to project manager to coding monkey, the problem I face is over experience.

    I had five consecutive interviews last year where they thought I'd get bored, this would have been funny were it not for the fact that

    1. I wouldn't because I love work.

    2. It meant I was out of contract for 6 months.

    I had an interview at a supermarket chain where I didn't get the job because I'd sacked two people. (One who wasn't safe to leave with female staff, and another who openly admitted planning logic bombing the company I was troubleshooting for.)

    The good thing I've noticed is companies have realised they can vet cvs quicker than agents, so they have one woman in personnel stick out a job advert and catch a thousand cvs. At this point some 2 techies short list over their lunch hour removing all those who, can't spell, think they were using ODBC when they were using OLE DB etc, have hobbies such as "Socialising", "Music", etc -- eg coming in with a hangover or tired, and texting mates all day. Then they're cut down again, removing all the premenopausal women, but keeping all the women you've got with children all over 7, one of these women will know exactly how to solve the company's woes because she's been there 20 years, and is brilliant but noone listens to her because she's female and doesn't have any ambition. Then you throw 50% of the rest in the bin - who wants to employ someone who is unlucky?

    At the end you're left with a few dozen, so you get them in, and reject all the tall project managers - tall people are universally overestimated so they're not going to be as good for the same level of promotion as someone who has got promoted despite being a dwarf. On the techie side you look at their career history for success. The brilliant never fail inspite of the management, so they'll have worked on a load of difficult, but still successful projects.

    Weed out those who want to use every latest bit of technology, they leave before they've finished, and hey presto you've got your men.

    If you have to use agents because you haven't got the time, fine, but ask them for all the CVs. Do not let personnel have anything to do with the process. Personnel women think you can train IT staff like you can train a nanny.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Not this again!

    Everyone is so up in the air about economy down this and that, jobs down. Been in IT since '91, this is the third successive dip, they seem to occur roughly every 8-10 years. 91/92 I got made redundant from a tape monkey job, due to economic downturn. 2001 I got made redundant from a SA/DBA job due to economic downturn/dot-com bust/Enron thingy. 2008 we are heading into economic downturn again. Just awaiting the dreaded "Please can you come over to HR, we need to discuss something." phone call!

    If you keep adapting and always be prepared to bend whichever way you need to, practise your BS-in-the-interview techniques, you can always blag something, somewhere, if need be.

  19. Damian Jauregui

    Job adverts falling...

    I think this also has a lot to do with the maturity of the agency industry as I find that a lot of positions never even make it on to Jobserver, etc. Agencies actively call me, rather than the other way around.

    When a new .Net or SharePoint contract position comes up, your average recruiter already has a list of candidates that he knows and trusts, and contractors are following the recruiter more and more. This is probably why recruiters love LinkedIn as it gives them a way to track what their code monkeys are up to...

    I've even recently had one call me at my clients site, cause they got the company name from LinkedIn. For an agent, this is forward thinking compared to the goldfish approach by agents of old...

  20. The Other Steve

    Not before time.

    "But the spotlight has moved on. Employers now want IT generalists: individuals with a good grounding in different aspects of IT – and with the ability to think outside the box as well."

    Generally a positive move, but unfortunately probably to late to save the IT world from the onslaught of MCSE monkeys. The fact that generalists with highly transferable skills are actually more desirable than "two years Java", or "MCSE preferred" has taken more than a decade to percolate up to the recruiters, what the fuck took them so long ?

    Maybe they were waiting for the legions of VB and ASP jockeys to learn about iterators and curly brackets ?

    As for the 59 applicants for every post figure, that sounds high, but perhaps not vastly overstated. However, as anyone who has ever been in the unfortunate position of trying to recruit developers will know all to well, if you get 59, 50 of them can probably go straight in the bin. Partly because about this proportion will be padding CVs bundled by the recruiters for reasons best known to themselves.

    I have no figures to back up my theory that the figure is so high because there are a lot of unhappy geeks clicking "Apply Now" on every jobsite link that even half matches their search criteria in a desperate bid to escape their current roles, but I've seen it happening in to many places to discount it easily. I've even seen bored App Devs automate the process on rainy Friday afternoons when the boss is "working from home."

    The question of why there are so many codemonkeys, DBAs and sysadmins who despise their current roles enough to behave this way is one I'll leave to the industry to figure out, unless, of course, they wish to pay my obscenely high consulting fees.

    Be nice if they could figure it out in less than another ten years, but I won't hold my breath.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    No surprise here

    Everything that can be outsourced, is being so, or at least being planned to.

    And developers, you're fucked. The Indian mega-code shops like Wipro are taking over.

    Sure, their code is shite, but its cheap, and thats all the shareholders care about.

    See you at the network exams. At least offices will always need cabling up.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    computer science more like C++ and Java Programming

    as title, courses are a joke created just to support overpaid lazy academics studying whether marshmallows make good keyboard supports instead of something useful like a better UI

  23. Aaron

    C+?

    What is this language "C+" of which you speak? I've heard of C, and I've heard of C++, and I've even heard of C# -- but I've never heard of C+.

  24. Pete

    I.T. isn't all it's cracked up to be

    When a lay-person thinks about a job in IT, they visualise a lone programmer, sat in front of an array of large screens, typing away at the speed of light to either repel all these threats trying to get our personal data, or to create the latest website, videogame or killer-app.

    What they don't realise is that the majority of people who are classed as IT-workers wouldn't see a computer at all, if they didn't use it for emailing their friends, surfing or changing the date in last week's reports and timesheets and resubmitting them again (and again and again). The biggest shock that new recruits, fresh out of their computer-science courses with their shiny new degrees have is the dawning realisation that they probably won't actually produce any product that they can point at and say with pride "I wrote that" - ever. Instead, they'll attend meetings, snooze through presentations, write status reports, create test strategies, update bug statuses, or just respond to phone calls with the ubiquitous "Try rebooting, call again if that doesn't fix it".

    These jobs have always existed - not in their current form, but as low-level drudge such as the typing pool, ledger clerks and general book-keepers. Just about the only benefit they have is that you stay dry when it's raining.

    Sadly, the I.T courses that schoolkids get seduced by (if you're allowed to say "seduce" and "schoolkid" in the same sentence these days) simply don't prepare them for real-life. I'm sure that if they did, there'd be far fewer kids joining the courses and even fewer completing them.

    Let's lose some of the unrealistic glamour from teritary I.T. courses and replace it with something more useful, such as a BSc. in reading El Reg.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    sounds familiar

    Went travelling after graduation in 2004 and still stuck in shelf stacking now in 2008, even went overseas for a while to see some of the world, but seems to have made things worse

    [scottish employers seem to be more interested in little robots who only think what they are told to think, dont dare consider H&S or Working Time Directive, and generally hate graduates

    ( e.g. "I'll show that little smarta*se why ra uni is a pure waste o time, see how he likes doing menial work, put him back in his place" tends to be the attitude as well as the usual "overqualified" "under experienced" kack etc) ]

    I have found they take someone who has been travelling in the past as a liability who might just go find a better job rather than doff the cap to the company.

    Frankly IT courses should have their places cut drastically or stopped till educational providers can supply courses that are useful outwith theoretical academia and perhaps try and help their grads get a foot on the ladder (University of Dundee...I'm looking your way, what use is an industrial advisory board if none are interested in employing anyone who finishes the course with less than a first or very very high upper second?????? )

    Lastly I'm sick of dealing with "IT Professionals" who cant speak english, and cant do the job they're paid for, here I was thinking IT wasn't on the Highly Skilled list anymore, seems I thought wrong given the amount of Indian nationals I've seen in interviews lately, most who struggle with basic english.........then again accepting minimum wage for a highly skilled position coupled with a pile of dubious references seems to help grease the wheels, shame it makes the honest of us suffer.

  26. MarkJ

    @Neil

    Most likely object disoriented. Possibly class inheritance is subject to a 40% loss of resources for a foundation class.

  27. Steve
    Flame

    Stating the bleeding obvious

    Employers “believe the answer to the skills and knowledge shortage is to focus on the development of elites rather than on widening graduate participation”.

    No shit! I could have told you that years ago - the fact that 50% of graduates end up in a job that doesn't need a degree should have made it obvious.

    Maybe these employers shouldn't enact recruitment policies that just say "2:1 or above only". I've seen film studies "graduates" with a 2:1 get jobs where I can't even get an interview because they don't know how to class a MSc or they don't understand that a 2:2 in physics is far more difficult than a 1st in Tourism Studies.

    They created all these mickey mouse degrees just to keep people of the dole and it ends up screwing over employers and graduates - unless you're one of the film students who used to do their coursework by watching films at my house while half a dozen scientists and engineers explain the symbolism and meaning.

  28. Franco Silver badge

    True, as far as it goes...

    I finished a contract about a month ago and here in Scotland the vast majority of jobs are permanent rather than contract.

    It's been going on for ages though, particularly the qualifications part. I was hired by a company because I have an MCP. At no point, for a desktop support role, did they ask me what my MCP was in. ITIL seems to be the buzzword of the week in recruitment agencies.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    WTF is...

    C+?

    Can someone please explain whether this article is referring to C# or C++? i suspect in context it is referring to C#.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Moon on a stick

    Below is what a University wants.

    Whilst I agree a broad width of skills is good how can anyone have such depth across such a broad range?

    Knowledge comes from experience and who has the time to go to great depth in so many subects. All the work places I have been in really want you to do one or two thing really well rather than many things poorly.

    I agree there are zealots out there but hopefully at least they know what they are zealots for :-)

    <application>

    Applicants should have an MSc and a good first degree (minimum 2:1) in Software Engineering or Computer Science; they should have excellent software engineering skills and be able to develop algorithms and software for robust applications; excellent knowledge in developing interfaces; excellent knowledge of C, C++, Java, Javascript, XML, PHP, AJAX, QSL & RDBMS, Windows, Linux and Web Services and Web Applications.

    Desirable Knowledge, Skills and Experience:

    Successful candidates should have excellent experience in software engineering for real applications. Experience in designing and developing graphical user interfaces is a must.

    </application>

  31. John Taylor
    Thumb Up

    @ debaser

    classic job advert ;) gave me a chuckle :)

  32. Huw Davies
    Flame

    Don't get me started...

    <MontyPython>

    Is this the right room for an argument?

    </MontyPython>

    I'd rather know that you can do the job I employ you for than have a certificate that says you've ticked the right boxes on a course.

    If I need flexible solutions, you need to be flexible too...

    And as for kids with MCSEs that daddy paid for on a boot camp that have the experience of running a network of 3 PCs at home that want a starting salary of £30k+ because the advert for Noddy Training on the telly says that the average is £36k - £37k so they're prepared to come in below average.

  33. Gordon Pryra
    IT Angle

    Im glad that UK Schools are so mediocre

    I got into IT when the ability to be able to type (as a male) gave you a blank cheque from people who had heard of "modems and stuff like that"(tm)

    My first roles were a disaster, but the lack of knowledge on both sides of the interview table, meant that the most confident applicant won, never mind the fact that he had zero knowledge of their systems,

    In fact, many roles for the NHS, they would just take EVERY applicant who turned up due to a shortage of people able to change tape drives (17 years old, given a company car, £1500 a week and set loose all because the interviewer had no idea what he was interviewing for, ahhhh the good old days)

    The trouble is nowadays, is the amount of crappy contractors going for a position, all have a professional looking CV and 95% are (typically) have very little real experiance.

    Sometimes the real contractors have to go to 2 or maybe 3 interviews before they get their next position!!!!

    Anyway, I'm off to invoice for the last 4 hours work, I don't want the amount to stack up or the company I'm working for may see how much im costing!1!!

    IT angle, because if you are any good, then the jobs come to you, not the other way around

  34. drunk.smile
    Thumb Up

    @No surprise here

    Missing a trick there.

    With the right bullshit to your bosses and a quick call to India you can code in 15+ different languages. Outsourcing code is so cheap now it will barely dent your beer money. (Particularly when you can now command better salaries than most of your peers).

    Computer Science degrees in the UK are a load of shite - just do a couple of language courses in Hindi or Gurjarati... sorted.

  35. Pete

    @Gordon Pyra

    The biggest blockage to getting the right staff in the right positions is the recruitment agencies. Most of them are failed estate agents and wouldn't know a C compiler from a haystack, even if they'd ever seen either. They get given a wish-list from a client and follow it slavishly. "You have 4 years Java? Sorry the requirement is for someone with 3 years <click>" the reason being that don't know what any of the terms mean, what the client is _really_ asking for and are so scared that another agency (all of whom are living a cut-throat, hand-to-mouth existence) will dish the dirt on them, or that they'll pass one too many CVs to the equally clueless client H.R. dept and get kicked out, themselves.

    If an agency did ever appear, that was staffed by diligent, honest, intelligent and qualified sales analysts, they wouldn't last a week. The clients wouldn't deal with them because they'd ask too many questions and the flood of fanciful CVs would so overwhelm them that they'd spend days sorting through the applications for each post - instead of using the tried and trusted method of throwing the whole lot into the air - whichever CVs stick to the ceiling get an interview. Afterall, as Napoleon observed "it's better to be lucky than good".

  36. Stevie Silver badge

    Ha!

    So you actually have to *know* stuff now to get a high paying job, and if you've never actually done anything outside of a C.S. lab you can only expect an entry level position? Is this somehow "wrong"?

    I can't feel bad about this. In the last two years I've lost count how many times I've been sneered at by clever young things calling themselves Systems Architects (wih papers to prove it) who know I can't be right because I'm too old to understand how the new computer paradigm works. How I love finding the *same* regex problem in every bloody application week after week. At what point in the university courses do they teach that the most efficient program is the one that does what it's supposed to no matter what language it's written in?

    What's the point of rewriting all the Cobol stuff in C<append your flavour modifier of choice> if you don't know not to do all your currency calculations in floating point data types?

    As for the overall drop in wages in the industry, I've been underpaid for years. This represents me actually earning a median salary for once. Result!

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    so doesn't anyone need

    Cobol, PL1, and assembler any more?

    Yeah, that's me; the geezer in the corner and I'm hobbling over to get my coat now.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    @ Interesting... By Anonymous Coward

    And people wonder how it is that useless phukwits get into certain jobs - it's because idiots like you can't see a problem with selecting people on the basis of height and good-fortune... jeezuz d00d - it's a real shame that you didn't find yourself on a 60 years "out of contract", rather than just 6 months - that would do us all a favour...

    ...and believe me - that is seriously "toned down" from the flaming you deserve.

  39. John Stevens
    Boffin

    @ AC (WTF)

    er, like yourself, I was a bit bemused by the reference to C+.

    Then I clicked the link to the relevant site and found out for myself. Whilst Mr Ozimek sometimes gets it wrong in his articles, I have noticed that he does seem to be rather good (anal-obsessively so?) at inserting links to where he got his stuff from.

    So half the time, if something doesn't make sense, the link is right next to the bit you don't get.

    Boffin - cause obviously clicking links is beyond some people.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Interesting

    wasn't being entirely serious "d00d", I thought that was obvious. Most people who found Alf Garnet entertaining didn't realise he was taking the mickey out of their opinions though I guess.

    You don't talk in l33t on your cv do you?

    Also, to the chap who is constantly rang by agents wanting to know if he's looking for work. He should get a job in CRM, because then he'd realise they've all identified him as someone who tells them where he's working at the moment. They're trying to get other people into your current place d00d. To test the theory try pretending you're too busy to speak, and tell them to email you which you'll reply to in a few months when you're looking. See how many of them put, where are you now then?

    or

    Send me a cv so I can see what you're looking for? -- ie. So I can see where there's work.

  41. Simon Ward
    Happy

    Re: so doesn't anyone need

    "Cobol, PL1, and assembler any more?"

    Heh heh ... now I don't feel so bad about having Fortran on my CV :-)

    OTOH, I'm probably what you'd call an IT generalist - if you work in a company of 20-25 people then you don't really have much choice - my CV gets canned more often than not because I'm 'overqualified' (ie. I've got a PhD and they're scared shitless that I'll know more than them)

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @AC -interesting and AC -Not this again

    @Intersting

    Sounds terrible, its always the ones with little knowledge that have the gift of the gab/are complete arselickers that get the really good jobs where I work

    @Not this

    BS in interviews, you can only BS if you're dishonest, if you are completely honest, you cannot do this easily and it goes against every grain in your body.

    I can imagine you are a complete twofaced asshole.

    If you can actually do a job and talk competentely about what you are doing you will not stand a chance

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A quick analysis of the "where are you now?"

    I have three jobs in Stevenage, what's your situation?

    I'm at ICI, and I'm here for another few weeks.

    <Scribbles down ICI> Oh really, are you working for Gordon Brown?

    No, Harry Potter.

    <Scribbles down Harry Potter> Oh, right, don't know him. Send in your cv and I'll get you forwarded.

    At this point, you hang up and he could ensure Harry Potter gets cold called, and then discover that there's three jobs on the go at ICI.

    Does he?

    A. Make his money from getting 3 of his 50 people in where you are, (whoever they may be, let's face they don't play golf with him do they?)

    and also get three of his 50 people in to the other job.

    or

    B. make his money, by tirelessly working to get you personally one of the three jobs, in the hope that you'll leave your current job mid contract for money at best only slightly better than you're on now, and then just get the other two jobs for basically anyone?

    It's not difficult is it, to understand what the phone call's really about. These guys are human just like anyone else, and they want to make a living too. You're never going to be their friend, even though they speak just as nicely to the next person and the person before, because you're on their Salesforce implementation, or if they haven't fallen for Saleforce's ridiculous pricing for workflow function, Dynamics CRM at a third the price. This is the real world. It's not people's lives. It's sales.

    Ironically the people businesses really want, are not only super IT literate, but also so business savvy they've worked out the above conversation's real meaning themselves.

    This doesn't mean agents don't want a good guy in, because good guys mean long contracts, but they've got no control whatsoever over which good guy it is the company employs, and it's not an agent's fault he behaves the way he does. The real world takes no prisoners. The basic rule is it's easier to get one job for one of 50 guys, than one guy a job against 49 guys.

  44. Herby

    What is needed is a better "tick list"

    Like:

    1) What is K&R?

    2) What languages did you use in school? (negative list!)

    3) What languages other than those you used in school? (positive list)

    4) What is an ASR33?

    5) Have you ever BUILT anything?

    6) What is your favorite debugger?

    7) What is the size of a floppy disk? (the larger the better!)

    8) How much memory is in your "home machine" (smaller can be better!)?

    9) How late have you stayed up to fix a problem?

    10) Have you completed any projects (that were sold for money)?

    11) What is FORTRAN (It got me the job I have now!!)?

  45. davenewman
    Pirate

    Nobody wants to do IT degrees any more

    The problem isn't so much graduates not getting jobs, but no sixth formers want to do degrees with any IT content. For years business schools have run degrees giving students the all-round skills in business and computing that Philip Virgo identified. Our Management and Information Systems degree got the highest proportion of our graduates into employment of any degree in our business school (even more than the accountants). But so few sixth formers wanted to study anything to do with computing that the university closed the degree and has made staff redundant. They have now removed all IS and IT modules from the Management degree, so general managers will know nothing about technology.

  46. John Silver badge
    Happy

    Hardware

    Is where it's at.

    Code all you want, somebody has to make it work on servers. And somebody has to keep those servers happy. That would be me - and countless others. Systems administrators/engineers and network admin/engineers, fortunately, don't have as much of the off shore action as devs get (unless you are helpdesk - then you are screwed!). It takes real people close to your production environment to maintain the equipment that the code lives on. It's a full time job and requires experience more than a degree or certification (if you have both you are golden). Give me any server platform and any product platform to run it on. If I don't know it, give me 4 weeks and I will be up to speed. Give it 6 months and I'll be an expert.

    And to all you out of work devs in the UK, come on over to Seattle, plenty of work here. (sys admins too!)

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Talk of the devil and they're sure to appear.

    I've seen more and more of these of late. Why pay £75 a hour to an agent for reading a few cvs. (once.)

    http://www.jobserve.com/W0435AC0ADAFF8CFB.jsjob

    Lab49, a direct employer, are look for a strong ASP.NET Developer for a 6 month contract starting ASAP.

    We work on cutting edge Front Office systems for the investment banking industry.

    You will have:

    - Strong ASP.NET experience gained in a professional environment

    - AJAX experience

    - Experience of working on complex and challenging systems

    - Experience of working in a pressurised and dynamic environment

    This is a 6 month contract starting ASAP.

    NO AGENCIES/HEAD HUNTERS - WE WILL NOT ACCEPT ANY UNSOLICITED AGENCY SUBMISSIONS.

    ASP.NET/AJAX/Banking/Finance/Developer/DOTNET

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    cobol

    good old cobol and its 6 figure salary......

  49. MarkJ
    Alert

    Bitter?

    There seems to be a lot of resentment from those on the wrong end of a recruitment agency.

    The question is, which is actually the wrong end. As soon as you start needing to recruit and are forced into the arms of said agencies you are onto a loser. Agencies are obsessed with metrics and qualifications which tell you absolutely nothing about any candidate's ability to do a job.

    The best way actually seems to be to recruit your school/university friends and then their school/university friends. Back to the old boy network it is then.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Recruitment agencies working the odds

    Where I find it really annoying is when the agency's clearly look for a single key word, and then completely fail to look at anything else written in your CV.

    I've been a sysadmin for about 8 years now, it's what I enjoy doing, it's what I'm good at, and through that I got into the server side of SQL Server many years ago. Started doing my MCDBA, and had passed three of the four MCP's which were the server centric ones, but not the programming ones. Hardly suprising really since I suck at programming! So I stated on my CV the modules I'd done and put it on a few sites back when I was last looking for a job. The number of phone calls I got from recruiters asking if I was interested in a SQL programming position was amazing! No where on my CV does it say I'm a programmer!

    The problem is many of these recruitment agencies are fighting amoungst themselves for placements, so for any position applicants might well be submitted by several different recruiters. Their logic works that the more CV's they submit for the job, the better the chance is that one of theirs gets picked, and they get their finders fee.

    Got a new job in the end... employeed by an ex-manager who'd left to do his own thing, and knew I had the skills for the position without needing any bit of paper!

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Programming in the UK

    is probably finished. May as well just accept the fact. We'll also have to accept the fact that the big companies whose services we pay for will have crap IT systems which crash regularly, lose our direct debit details, over write our addresses, screw up our discounts and packages and generally pee us all off.

    There are now too many vested interests in the alleged power of off-shoring to save money. All those company directors who get big bonuses for off-shoring project - never mind that they fail more often, take longer, have to get rewritten, require serious on-shore reworking, etc., etc.

    This industry just isn't worth it any more unless you're working for yourself and producing your own products. In fact, I would suspect that this is the government's perverse motive for allowing all the jobs in such a vital industry to be stolen from the UK workers but then I know that they haven't a clue what damage they've wrought and will probably never understand it.

  52. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    disheartened

    I tried to get my self a nice comfy IT job away from my robots that seemed to do everything except what I told them

    I gave up eventually.

    Why?

    Because of 2 job adverts

    The first one was asking for 2 yrs experience in xxxx technology , yyyy technology and zzzz technology..... the fact xxxx had only been out 6 months.

    and the second advert was for the local council , for a trainee sys admin to be trained in all aspects of the council's IT systems

    I applied and got the usual 57 forms, then noticed the job spec sheet, 'Must have previous experience of running the council's IT systems'.

    wtf they want a trainee for then?

    Oh well back to the creation of Java programs that access the serial port for low level data transmission protocols... GUIs? stuff them

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    My experience of recruitment

    I graduated at the age of 23 with a 2:1 in Computer Science from a good university. I had good GCSEs, appalling A-Levels and had to take a two year college course (a HND in Computing, we're talking learning to use Microsoft Office as a module here) to get into said university.

    Before I even started my college course I had two years of self-taught Java experience from mucking around and making my own, admittedly fairly useless, programs and games.

    After graduating and learning more or less nothing relevant other than some C and Delphi, the latter of which I've never seen in any development job ever, I remained unemployed for six months. It was partly my choice, I'm a fussy person when it comes to making a huge decision, but also because recruitment agencies either misread my C.V., sent it to the completely wrong sort of company, or generally took my details and never called back.

    What do I do now? I'm approaching 18 months in a Java development role for an industry leading company - small, but growing - that understood I didn't have the best background, or any experience, or even perfect knowledge about Java. They recruited me because I was honest, willing to learn, eager and (presumably) vaguely intelligent.

    I thought I'd reply with this because the above comments are somewhat doom and gloom - if you're a recent graduate with a strong understanding and a good qualification, don't give up. The right company will find you (or you'll find them) and if you accept your limitations, they might just take you on and fill in the gaps. Agencies can be a depressing way to job hunt but they don't cost you anything, and they'll often try to bend-over-backwards-fellate potential employers to get your C.V. in the door.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @herby

    7) What is the size of a floppy disk? (the larger the better!)

    er, you mean like the 8 inch ones, mate? No, I'm really not bragging.

    Paris, 'coz she likes the large ones, too.

  55. Kevin Kitts
    IT Angle

    It's similar in the US...

    the major IT firms keep passing around the best people (getting a raise at each new job, artificially keeping average IT salaries inflated), while making it virtually impossible for recent graduates like myself to get a job. Why? Because there's no entry-level jobs anymore. You can't *get* a job unless you have at least 4-5 years experience anymore.

    1998:

    *Graduated with B.S. in Computer Science

    *IT firms wanted average of 2 years experience

    2000:

    *Worked at an IT firm for 2 years

    *IT firms wanted average of 3 years experience

    2001:

    *Worked at an IT firm for 3 years

    *IT firms wanted average of 4-5 years experience

    2002:

    *Worked at an IT firm for 4 years

    *IT firms wanted average of 4-5 years experience, plus nearly impossible combinations of skills

    I quit that IT job, and I've been out of the IT field (not by choice) ever since. I graduated with my Master's in Applied Information Technology, realizing that the programming market in the US (short of web programming) is dead. I specialized in Networking Technologies, considering that there's always new systems being developed and built. I've been out of school for two months, and still no work (but I live a long way from the local tech sector, so jobs are really hard to come by out here).

    That aside, I've seen more nepotism and arcane hiring practices than I'd care to talk about (I've got enough material to become a stand-up comedian). I've also spoken to industry insiders who complain that colleges and universities don't put out graduates who are competent enough for mission-critical work. On suggesting to them that they start their own academies (I'd sign up if it guaranteed me a job out where I live), they just laughed at me. It's as if everybody wants the best, but nobody's willing to train the best.

    In fact, nobody's willing to train anyone anymore (and the sub-standard training everyone gets when going into a new job is only grudgingly given). I specifically avoid applying for jobs above my level (honest guy here), to avoid getting fired later if I should get over my head - I *want* an entry-level job because I *know* my degree doesn't cover everything. Finding an entry-level job is like looking for a hay-colored needle in a haystack - the only way I'll probably find one is if it pokes me first.

    However, the only solution to problems like this is to have a standard for IT education. That means using the latest technologies, something that the colleges and universities absolutely refuse to do (they claim that doing that could be seen as espousing one technology over another). I got news for you: you can either adapt your teaching methods, or people will find another way to get a job, without spending their money at your facilities. College is optional, you know...you can still work your way up from the factory floor.

    Let's face it, if people are still using COBOL (and they are), it should still be taught...and it wasn't offered at my university. If people need to learn how to write secure code (and they do), places like Carnegie-Mellon shouldn't be the only college to teach secure programming techniques (it wasn't taught at my university).

    Multi-tasking, multi-threading, device drivers, secure coding, mission-critical applications...all these things are not being covered as standard curriculum in the US (at least, where I went to college/university). Survey (one-semester) classes do not make for instant experts.

    This is why I fear for my future. I have the capability to learn anything you put in front of me. Why should I pay $6000.00 US for a low-level Oracle certification I may never use (especially if the market wants generalists now)? I can't pay for every certification I think I could possibly use to get a job - that's why I went to the bloody college/university in the first place, to cover as many bases as I could for the least money! Not to mention that the colleges don't seem to have much luck getting their IT students hired - I applied for several IT jobs at the university I went to, and I never heard back from them. When a college or university won't hire its own graduates, it says a lot about that institution. (If you didn't understand that point, it means that the colleges not only are ripping you off, but they know they are ripping you off, and shamelessly so at that).

    The real world is harsh, and doesn't give a shit except about its wallet - maximum profit for minimum effort. They only hire the people who know everything, no matter how much more it costs them. If they can't hire the best, they hire their buddies and relatives. It's self-defeating, but they do it anyway. I have little hope for things changing, and I can't afford another degree.

    "Brain the size of a planet, and what do they have me doing? Parking cars."

    I wish I had a Sub-Etha Thumb...

  56. Patrick
    Stop

    The secret to IT

    If its programming, you are going to be a commodity.

    If it is administration based, if you go with MS you will just be another commodity.

    If it has a certification, then you are caught up in an industry cash cow, and you definitely will be a commodity along with all the Tesco clerks who sign up for night courses and buy study books to help them pass tests with no knowledge or ability to do anything in the real world.

    Bottom line is if you are in IT you are a commodity if you don't have specialists skills *and* a broad base of experience to draw upon.

    If you are just starting out, my condolences.

    Facts of life.

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    of course ...

    Employers have started to figure out what those of us in the IT industry already knew- that merely knowing how to write software in whatever programming language does not qualify someone to build good software solutions. I run a small software company in the US, and our constant battle is to find people who are better than the average programmer.

    By the way, the offshore development house is not a silver bullet. Business people, who more or less look at figures on an accounting ledger to make their purchasing decisions, have been burned again and again by offshoring. We have tried it, with very disappointing results, and what I found in my review of the people is very applicable to this conversation.

    A good software person needs, above all else, to be able to provide well thought-out solutions to problems, large and small, on an independent basis. We have had many experiences with offshore developers in particular where one or more members of the team got stuck on a problem and had to be bailed out by someone on our staff.

    A little anecdote that illustrates this problem. I had a team member offshore who was working on a content system that had implemented the Apache Solr search system. His task was to finish the search system implementation. He spent the first week sitting on his hands because he could not get the Solr search server working on his own system in development mode. A quick Google search of the error he received turned up multiple blog posts and HOWTO docs about the problem and a very simple solution (add the solr path to Tomcat, easy). That's grounds for firing in my book.

    For young software engineers, then, a lesson. Be a problem solver, that's what business people want to see.

  58. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    C+

    It's like C, but the compliler goes up to 11. (Which is 3 in decimal)

  59. Phil Standen

    Go to a better uni

    My CS dept. had 98% employment.

  60. b

    Cheer up

    FFS

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't take the ads so seriously.

    Employer needs staff.

    Phones agent (more likely the other way round, bloody agents)

    Doesn't have time for 50 interviews (they're short staffed).

    Makes big list to keep numbers down.

    Ultimately the employers are only worried about a specific core set of skills, because the agents are largely incompetent/don't really know what they are, they word the ads badly and put down everything equally.

    If you fit the core of the job just apply anyway, the agent either calls you back or doesn't if they don't tough.

    I had an agent ask me which versions of Perl I'd used once, when there hadn't been a significant shift since Perl 4 over 10 years previous. The point is that they have no clue what's needed, the employer mentioned perl 5 so the agent assumes that the version is important and asks about it, might even make a requirement of it.

    If you think you fit the core of an ad, apply anyway, there's nothing to lose.

  62. Jamie Kephalas
    Happy

    High Five for me.

    It's stories like this that make me very glad I didn't go to College or University and skipped straight into the workplace.

    @ The secret to IT

    By Patrick

    You've hit the nail on the head. I, luckily, worked this out when I was 18 and have lived by it since.

  63. Aron A Aardvark

    guff

    The problem surely, has been ridiculously high salaries and daily rates for IT personnel in the past. Companies now realise that IT is not rocket science and that there are plenty of kids willing to work for peanuts to get in the door. Anyhoo, offsite support 'n storage will make most of you superfluous within a few years, probably.

    Someone above me on the forum said that the kids aren't interested in IT- I'd say the opposite is true. Every school leaver and sixth former knows how to do basic IT admin, build a website etc. That is the reason salaries have dropped.

    Yes some of the job ads have absurdly unrealistic guff about their 'ideal candidate' but speaking from an HR pov, the recruiting manager is unlikely to get all his boxes ticked.

    BTW. what's "strong experience"?!

  64. Sooty

    @AC of course

    "A little anecdote that illustrates this problem....That's grounds for firing in my book."

    I've had a similar experience with an offshore contractor, he'd been trying to solve a code problem for 3 days. It had worked throughout all of his unit testing but was failing as soon as it was integrated into the wider system.

    I loaded up the log, and it clearly showed it was trying to load a nonexistant file. (which he hadn't checked) I sometimes maintain 20 year old systems, they have excentricities, so I wasn't immediately certain this was the cause of the error. So I went to the bit of code that tried to load this file and saw that it was involved with all sorts of checking around dates of birth. The unit test data hadn't included a date of birth (a shocking ommission) so it was skipping this whole section of code which he hadn't even known existed.

    In case this code was quite obscure i stepped through the code manually and arrived there within a minute (he was amazed that anyone would/could follow the code manually, on paper, instead of just running it) The fix was to add a single entry for his change into a lookup table in this section. Total time to investigate and fix - 5mins using schoolboy programming techniques. If he hadn't actually asked for help (which is quite rare!) I don't know how long it would have taken.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    @guff

    By Aron A Aardvark

    Posted Friday 1st August 2008 11:17 GMT

    A big part of the problem is that wages are TOO LOW in most companies. Anyone with good skills, knowledge and experience will be able to contract for at least 4 times if not 6 times the income.

    Good systems architecture, software design, coding and testing experience is akin to rocket science. If management don't believe that software development is difficult and requires intelligent, talented, motivated and experienced personnel then the company deserves all it gets. Pay peanuts, get monkeys and have to pay through the nose to fix what the monkeys have created after the event.

    Just to be clear, I'm talking about people who actually create software, not people who use software like Microsoft Office or Dream Weaver and think they're software developers.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @guff

    "Companies now realise that IT is not rocket science"

    Surely you mean "Companies now believe IT is not rocket science?"

    To be fair, there's tons of IT graduates who think that too. The amount of kids I see who are so quick they can write a broken system in days is amazing.

    Yet surprisingly they all seem to get to the point of extracting a quarter of a trillion rows from a table, one at a time, via some object relational mindset, on day one, of life deployment, before they discover "Select count(*)" against a parallel array of db servers is a million times faster.

    In fact databases don't even exist. They're just a heap that their middle tier code is allowed to play with in an unconstrained fashion. When I see this happen, I ask them the question, "Can you just make all your class member variables public for me, so I can read and write them as I feel fit?"

    Then they go mad, call me granddad, and then without a hint of irony, write a bit of code that results in a delete statement, where in a strange or unusual set of cirumstances, results in a where clause that always defaults to true.

    Then they discover that there's some flaw or another, something like as when someone presses "empty basket" when the basket's already empty, it deletes the whole basket table, and it takes them a minute to find, and six hours to restore the database.

    Then somebody says, "If you'd used <insert any completely opensource, unsupported framework here> then that's designed out." Cue huge pressure on the project manager to get in loads of third party apps for which there's no support, and no connectivity.

    Then they leave, and with just five years experience of coding systems without having ever been there when all the bugs were gone, they describe themselves as "Technical Architect", and pride themselves that they can recite paragraph a, page b, chapter c of Sun Microsystems best hardware selling book "Design Patterns".

    It's always amazed me to hear people talk about this book. I just can't believe there's anyone who should be in authority who would consider it anything other than a textbook for novices. By the time anyone gets to be allowed to design something, they should know so much more than this that it's considered a comic, and yet I had to buy the stupid thing because spotty kids ask questions out of it like it's life or death.

  67. Matthew Malthouse
    IT Angle

    Not what we want

    We've got an agency-worshipping, box-ticking HR department, determined to find perfect candidates, expert at everything we do.

    The idea that we hire someone who might have the ability to learn what we do rather than know it all already is given short shrift.

    This is why we have three vacancies. And have had at least two at any given time for the last two years.

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    It's not to do with wages, it's the lack of certification

    Over subscribed is not a problem, just weed out the wheat from the chaff. The problem as far as I'm concerned is the complete lack of decent certification (forget about MCSE, CCNE etc) in IT. Any kid can say they're an expert, a typical SME IT department has 3 or 4 people who think they know what they're doing but have grown up in their bedroom fiddling with Windows and the like. Suddenly they have some experience and think they're good and deserve a decent pay packet. You would not go to a doctor, lawyer or accountant without a worthy certification behind them so why do we let IT people get away with it? I once asked for WiFi experience as part of a spec and someone applied who'd set up his brother in-law's WiFi. ie. he'd plugged it in, didn't even remember the manufacturer!!

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @It's not to do with wages, it's the lack of certification

    That's spooky. I even use the phrase bedroom programmers, people who learned software in their bedroom. I once used it in a demo, to an old boss, and his response to my boss was "He doesn't go out to client sites does he?"

    As for all current certification, I disagree with it on general principle. you're basically paying a software provider to tell you you can pass an exam they've set. I know (== have fixed software written by) dozens of MCSEs, Ds, Java certified guys, and network guys. Some are good, some aren't but it's not the exams.

    It's about brains, motivation and experience, and wanting to do a good job.

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