Lisa Knox is an IT project manager who has applied for positions throughout the Baltimore area, hoping to take advantage of the jobs created by federal stimulus money. So far, she’s had no luck. "I don’t see anything coming to fruition," she says.
Overall, recruiters give mixed reports about Baltimore’s IT job market. Some say it remains sluggish, while others see their clients starting to put in more job orders.
Tim Namie, managing director for Manpower Professional’s Washington, D.C., office, says companies in the private sector have a surplus of candidates to choose from, but most aren’t in a hurry to hire. "I think companies are focusing on doing their work with their current staffing load," he observes. However, Anthony Petrelli, regional managing director for Technisource’s Baltimore area, believes climate has gotten better in the last two months. Although June and July were slow, the volume of job requirements has increased about 30 percent since August, he says.
Barry Downs, branch manager for Robert Half Technology’s office in Washington, also sees a bit a pick up in demand, largely due to projects that were put on hold a year ago but are now beginning to move forward. "They are starting to open up a little bit more," says Downs. "They have reached a critical level, so we’re seeing some good month-to-month trending."
Downs sees increasing need for .NET experience, server virtualization and traditional help desk support. Petrelli is seeing demand for a variety of jobs, including SharePoint application specialists, SAP, network engineers and help desk. Despite Baltimore’s proximity to the nation’s capital, most of the job requirements are coming from the private sector.
Year over year, Baltimore job postings on Dice were down 11 percent, from 1,662 in September 2008 to 1,471 in September 2009.
No doubt, Baltimore’s IT job market is affected by nearby Washington. For instance, over the last several months contract rates in D.C. have been steady, while they’ve decreased across the board in Baltimore. For that reason, Petrelli says, some local companies are having trouble filling private sector jobs. And while the number of public sector jobs would on the surface seem to be a good thing, recruiters note that tech professionals who’ve spent a good part of their careers in private companies can’t always easily transfer into government. As Namie says, "A Java developer who works in the private sector can’t automatically move over to a public sector position. A lot of times it has to do with clearance issues. Plus, the public sector has different processes and nuances than the private sector. It’s hard to make that transition."
As a result, those who were anticipating increased availability of public-sector IT jobs are often finding their search to be more difficult than anticipated. Public-sector jobs tend to be project-based, so IT workers are expected to hit the ground running. "It can happen, but it’s doesn’t happen often," says Namie.
Petrelli agree.: "Many either stay on one side or the other. It’s a challenge to get over the hump. But once you get a clearance, you stay on that side. It’s pretty much a ticket."