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Covid-19: the impact on the Australian and NZ IT jobs market.

The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed today’s world of work. Along with remote and hybrid working, perhaps the greatest impact has been on hiring intentions and the skills now sought by employers.

The IT sector in Australia and New Zealand has been strong for several years. Driven by business transformations and the adoption of new technology, there have been candidate shortages and competition for talent. So how has the IT jobs market fared in the light of Covid-19? 

As recruiting experts, that’s a question we get asked daily, by both candidates and the businesses we support. With 150 specialist IT recruiters within the A/NZ region, and relationships across all industries, we have good visibility of the changing landscape. But to help us answer this question, we also surveyed over 700 IT leaders to see how Covid-19 has impacted their business and recruitment needs. 

Unsurprisingly, the impact of Covid-19 has been wide reaching, affecting what organisations prioritise, how they work, how they engage with their customers and the risks they are exposed to. One of the most striking findings from our research was the postponement or cancellation of ‘non-essential’ projects, which was experienced by over half of the managers surveyed.

However, for others a reallocation of IT budgets had the greatest impact, with 35% of managers saying they have increased their investment in IT infrastructure and applications to support remote working practices. With the introduction of social distancing measures, 30% of managers also increased their focus on digital engagement with their customers, and a similar number adopted agile working practices.  

Unfortunately, as cyber-criminals sought to exploit the conditions, a quarter of respondents reported an uplift in security risk. 

We then looked at the impact on headcount and hiring intentions. While 26% of managers reduced headcount, typically contractors working on projects that were put on hold, a far greater percentage – two-thirds – kept their headcount stable. In addition, a further 13% said they have hired specifically because of Covid-19.  

Increased demand was most acute in infrastructure. As lockdowns were mandated, organisations scrambled to facilitate working from home. Consequently, of those who hired, the demand was highest for Infrastructure Engineers (40%), Service Desk Analysts (37%) and Cloud specialists (24%). As organisations altered the ways in which they engaged with their customers, hiring activity also increased for Software Developers and UX/UI professionals. The spike in malicious cyber activity resulted in increased hiring of security experts (37% of those who hired). 

When looking at the year ahead, the trends were similar, with Infrastructure Engineers (34%), Software Developers (28%) and Cloud Specialists (26%) the top three priority areas for recruitment over the next 12 months.  

Of course, whilst the need for strong technical skills is a prerequisite for most roles, soft skills are also important – in fact they are increasingly important. When we asked IT managers what soft skills they are prioritising, the top three were communication (51%), adaptability (46%) and collaboration (37%). Interestingly, when we have asked this question in similar surveys pre-Covid-19, adaptability and collaboration did not feature in the top three. 

These findings certainly give us a very good temperature check of the market. The responses mix realism (projects have been cancelled, jobs have been lost) with optimism (there is ongoing hiring and investment). Whilst it is little consolation to those out of work, the IT industry seems to have fared better than most. And in the long run the crisis is likely to lead to the creation of more IT jobs.  

Clearly, the Covid-19 experience has necessitated change and fast-tracked digital transformation. Most of the companies we speak with have had to manage costs in the short term, but they have also used this time to reflect, learn and imagine what their business could look like in the new era of work – and IT will play the key role in this.

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