Hot skills drive IT salaries up

Want to hire a VoIP expert? What about a certified IS auditor? Better get out the checkbook. See which IT skills are now commanding top dollar.

CIOs, get ready for battle. Talent wars are back, according to Foote Partners LLC, a New Canaan, Conn.-based research firm that tracks skills pay for IT workers.

Hiring by IT services firms gathered steam in 2004 and 2005, driving up pay for professionals with niche skills.

The Foote survey, which collected data on more than 170 skills from 48,000 IT workers in North America and Europe, found that overall pay for non-certified skills rose 2.8% in the first three months of 2005.

Take away message for CIOs? "The headhunters are ready to cherry-pick people right out of your company," said David Foote, the firm's co-founder and president.

"They are going after companies that have had some project failures. Our advice? Don't give a recruiter an excuse for grabbing someone from your company. If you have to go to your CFO and make a case for the people whose talents you value, do it."

Several factors are driving some salaries up, Foote said, beginning with the obvious -- an economy that added some new jobs in recent months. The hot merger and acquisition market and government regulations are also pushing pay for certain skills.

In addition, Foote found that employers are "less inclined to play the offshoring-and-outsourcing card when under pressure," looking instead for ways to keep key players in their U.S. shops.

"They're demanding much more industry-specific experience to go with tech skills master, and even systems-specific solutions experience within an industry, which is a fairly new development," Foote said.

In Foote's view, one striking aspect of the recent data is the decline in value for project management talent. It's still a job requirement, but these days it's assumed an IT pro will have project skills. "Now it's a condition of hiring," Foote said. The pay has followed suit.

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