Cuts in government spending and a Federal election meant that 2010 wasn't a banner year for IT salaries in Canberra. However, new contractor salary data suggests the situation is slowly improving in our national capital.
Picture by Roberto Arias
We included Canberra in our analysis of where the best-paying IT jobs are earlier in the year. However, Canberra is a relatively unusual market. It has a much larger percentage of government IT jobs than anywhere else, reflecting government's de facto status as the biggest industry in the ACT. Moves in recent years to make technology spending more efficient also mean it has a very high percentage of contract IT workers, though this is gradually being reduced in the wake of the Gershon Review which recommended converting more contractors into permanent roles.
Recruitment firm Peoplebank regularly tracks the availability of contract roles in Canberra via its Peoplebank/Intermedium index. Its latest data suggests that after a slow 2010, the first quarter of 2011 saw an increase in contractor hiring, the first time that has happened in several years. More importantly for IT worker wallets, contractor pay rates are also going up.
Peoplebank CEO Peter Acheson attributes that improvement to a combination of factors:
Rising demand for skilled ICT workers is due to the commencement of a number of projects, including IT commitments outlined in the 2010 Budget, as well as separate projects that had been delayed due to the extended period of political uncertainty associated with the Federal election.
Demand is particularly strong for project managers, business analysts, developers and testers. Despite that, variability appears to be the norm over the long-term, so anyone working in IT in the ACT should be used to troughs and dips. The chart below shows the hiring patterns for IT contractors in Canberra over the last seven years in terms of number of vacancies at any given point in time:
Another factor that has altered contract durations. Most government IT contracts typically end on June 30, so the length of hire is often a function of when the staff member commences. However, the shift towards offering permanent positions means that when contract roles are offered, the contract period is becoming shorter, Peoplebank found.
Are you an IT contractor based in the ACT? Is life better in 2011? Tell us your experience in the comments.
Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers.