The first Monday in September saw a frisson of excitement as newspapers reported that the financial sector has begun hiring again post-recession. Recruitment agency Morgan McKinley said its monthly City vacancies have doubled in a year to 6,048 – the most vacancies in a month since August 2008.
Meanwhile, consultancy behemoth PricewaterhouseCoopers has announced plans to take on 800 new staff -- on top of its 1,200-strong global graduate intake -- and Santander has outlined 6,000 new jobs being created in its retail banking operation.
Is the City, however, on its own? Some recruiters, such as Hays, seem to be doing poorly overall. Hays reported in early September that it believes IT jobs are still in the doldrums. Its survey for the year ending 30 June 2010 found that its IT recruitment fees collapsed 21 per cent to £22.4 million, with operating profit slumped 89 per cent for the year to just £500,000.
It may be, of course, that IT companies are simply choosing to do their own hiring.
Large vendors have hit the headlines with announcements of massive global redundancies; HP announced 9,000 – including 934 in the UK -- in July. Others, such as HDS, have confirmed they have just grown their internal UK channel team by two-thirds to ensure partners have all the resources and support required to drive sales.
Being well prepared
Askar Sheibani, chief executive officer at repairs firm Comtek, said it has continued to expand through the recession, something that he said is partly due to looking well ahead and preparing for the tougher times ahead.
“In early 2008, we recognised there was going to be a severe economic downturn, and we decided to prepare for a big push from various organisations – large organisations, government bodies, and the like – for cost reduction. And we knew there would be a lot of people lose their jobs as well,” he said.
Sheibani said Comtek has been positioning itself in response to economic pressures, earmarking potential opportunities that result, and then seeking to skill up to address them directly – not least by snapping up highly skilled sales staff cast adrift who would otherwise probably be happy where they were and not be available.
“We increased out number of staff last year by 25 per cent, and this year, we will increase it by another 25 per cent,” he said. “We believe there is going to be a massive skills shortage in the services industry, and we have to address it.”
Cloud and unified comms provider Outsourcery made two appointments as CRN went to press. It believes its market will be worth £61 billion by 2014.
Piers Linney, joint chief executive at Outsourcery, said in a statement: “The software industry is growing at a blistering rate with hosted IT at the forefront of change as it is developing recognition and providing tangible benefits for businesses.”
Adam Jarvis, sales director at VAR Intrinsic Technology, also confirmed expansion, with upcoming vacancies. “Year on year growth is still good for us – we have something around 37-38 per cent growth. So business is very strong,” he said.
“We did have a recruitment spurt at the beginning of last financial year, last year, but we were not able to find the right calibre -- for want of a better word -- of staff.”
Now is ideal for recruitment, and Intrinsic is working to snaffle up as many highly qualified people as it can. Jarvis echoed Sheibani’s sentiments: if employers wait until the economy stabilises, it may be too late to skill up.
“I need to get the people now to help us grow in 2011,” he said. “We are in our Q4, and it takes three to six months before people get up to speed, and start delivering value. We are looking for significant growth in 2011.”
Meanwhile, rapid change in the corporate world, including M&A activity, where Intrinsic has many customers, not only was shifting staff back onto the labour market but providing ongoing opportunities for integration and solutions provision. That in turn would mean channel recruitment, noted Jarvis.
In the public sector, there would certainly be headcount reduction. However, as in past tough times, they are not getting rid of projects, just slowing everything down, according to Jarvis.
“They actually see IT as fuelling efficiencies,” Jarvis said, which created work and growth for channel companies.
Intrinsic is doubling the size of its Merseyside client services centre team in plans to increase overall headcount 20 per cent. Its centre, which will become a management hub for field engineering, had 15 staff when it opened two years back. Intrinsic plans to add 20 staff over 18 months in response to demand for its managed services portfolio launched in February.
Networking and security specialist Softcat is another channel company that is expanding. It grew 25 per cent by revenue in 2009, and proprietor Peter Kelly said in August that it planned to add another 100 to the firm’s 250 in the next year, primarily graduates. It already added 15 in June, 20 in July, and 20 more start this month.
Datapoint laid off 14 per cent of its 222-strong team as the year turned – but claims that was a result of restructuring. It is now looking to hire again, adding 11 staff since March and planning to boost that number further to help it double its services business in the next three years.
There are plenty of stories of insolvency and business failure, though, to counter the good news. A provider offering services to the City, Calyx, went into administration 6 September with debts of around £75 million – despite a good reputation and solid customer base.
Mitel and ProCurve partner Qubic similarly called in the insolvency teams, back in February, despite claimed profitability plus 25 per cent growth in 2009.
Guy Mucklow, managing director of Postcode Anywhere, said his company is expanding. “We are hiring, we are looking at a new partner manager. But one of our KPIs, in order for us to compete, is to be a cost-leader. And when we started, we were generating £300,000 per head, and now it is £170,000 per head, with 30 other people. So we are looking to grow a bit more, get it to £250,000 per head.”
Wearing his other hat, as board member representing SMEs at IT industry group Intellect, Mucklow added that experiences definitely vary and it depends for many how they are funded – Postcode Anywhere is privately funded so tends to be more risk-averse.
“Looking at SME IT companies in particular, it depends on whether they are venture capital-funded. A lot are, and that cash is very thin on the ground at the moment. When they get the cash, they tend to go on a big recruitment drive and skill up quite aggressively,” Mucklow said.
Public sector redundancies
However, Acumin Consulting has suggested that private sector IT-sales jobs growth is unlikely to compensate for the expected redundancies in the public sector. The consultancy also said that KPMG and Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) figures suggest that the rate of recruitment growth slowed in July.
Permanent and temporary appointments rose more slowly than in the preceding months. The REC believes the jobs market is decelerating. The availability of permanent staff actually fell in July, although temporary staff availability increased at a low rate.
Dr Paul Sisson, research fellow at the Institute of Employment Studies, said total employment could fall as a result of the government cuts. “Primarily, it depends on how quickly these public-sector cuts come in as to what the overall impact of them will be,” he added.
A fall in vacancies is likely, meaning more competition for those applying for IT sales jobs.
A survey of 2,100 employers by general recruitment agency Manpower predicts flat hiring overall for the rest of 2010 – seasonally adjusted net growth of one per cent, for the fourth quarter in a row. Almost as many employers planned to reduce headcount as add jobs.
Finance and business services fared best, with expected growth of 10 per cent, and construction worst, with a net hiring outlook of minus-five per cent. The outlook for public sector recruitment was minus-two per cent for the rest of the year, according to Manpower’s figures.
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