For employees with at least four years experience (and sometimes just two) in technical positions, such as programmer, network manager or web developer, the employment outlook continues to be strong. Even the recent dot-com downturn is not likely to alter that forecast. Demand is hot in a wide range of traditional industries - healthcare, finance, insurance, manufacturing and others - as they take on the demands of an Internet economy.
"Traditional companies are where the majority of the positions are today," notes Noel Cutberth of Manpower Professional. "The bigger the Internet grows, the more people they will need in the future."
According to a study by Helm Technical Services, Inc., a national employment services agency, the number of individuals completing technical degrees is actually decreasing nationwide. Recruiters agree that the demand for people will only get worse in the immediate future, because demand far outweighs the current supply.
Integrating a company with the Internet economy is frequently an expensive investment. Beyond adapting their normal operations to a web-enabled system, companies need people to manage the day-to-day functions of e-commerce. What are today's hot positions?
-- Network managers, system engineers and installers;
-- Project managers for software development;
-- Cisco-certified engineers, who specialize in router technology;
-- Database administrators (DBAs), especially SQL server administrators, and people who can provide customers with e-commerce solutions by developing and supporting a company's web page;
-- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software specialists, who work with software used to automate a number of office tasks, such as human resources management, inventory control and distribution, accounts receivable and accounts payable.
Jobs involving the latest technologies are not the only positions employers are eager to fill. According to Cutberth, "Companies also need people who have background in the older technologies and the new, so they can naturally work within both systems, as the company ushers in new technological resources."
The Internet economy is creating opportunities for independent project consultants as well. For example, a company may need to hire someone to design an e-commerce system. The individual may stay six to nine months to complete the project and then go on to the next assignment in another company. Once the consultant's work is done, a webmaster and database administrator may be hired to deal with day-to-day operations.
New companies are also emerging which take software applications and company databases off-site and manage the information as "application service providers." These companies provide Enterprise Resource Planning and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) over the web, enabling the outsourcing of a company's management information personnel.
"The company will act as host and charge a per-person license fee," says Dave Sanders, president of MRI Sierra International Group, Inc. "This is a throwback to the days of timesharing databases."
Benefits on Demand
With rising costs to hire talented employees and the scarcity of candidates, jobseekers are finding themselves with multiple options, all of which offer better pay and benefits. Compensation packages for mid- to senior-level employees include much more emphasis on flexible schedules, telecommuting, an attractive work environment, continuous training opportunities and stock options. "Work-life balance" is becoming a key concept for successfully recruiting and retaining employees with the most desired high-tech skills. Cisco Systems recruiters refer to it as "integration," the seamless blending of work and personal life.
With a reasonable level of PC knowledge and customer service skills, the help desk is a good launching pad for a high-tech career. The help desk requires a lesser degree of technical expertise, so the entry-level professional with some technical training but no on-the-job experience can also start here. Companies are increasingly willing to train new employees, and individuals can quickly acquire the skills needed to move up to higher paying jobs.
Vocational schools, community colleges and universities offer technical training programs to get started in the high-tech field.
And with Internet access, a growing number of computer-based training courses can be completed from home. Although obtaining a certification in software packages or equipment is usually a substantial investment in both dollars and time, it's practically guaranteed to lead to better pay as well as better long-range security in a job market desperate for high-tech talent.