The city of St. Louis took a major hit in 2008 when InBev acquired Anheuser-Busch Cos. in a $52 billion deal that transferred ownership of an iconic American brewer to the Belgian-Brazilian giant. It was a deeply unpopular move for city residents, and it didn’t do much for the local IT workforce.
As David Strom, manager of the St. Louis Job Angels, explains it, the city is home to number of data centers owned by companies such as MasterCard and Citibank. (Emerson Network even has a solar-powered data center.) But those facilities couldn’t make up the difference for the IT workers who lost work due to the acquisition. Data centers, after all, are filled with more machines than people.
But some in St. Louis are starting to see hope for the estimated 10,000 to 20,000 tech professionals living there. Strom says city officials are expecting 20 percent growth in IT jobs this year. “I think the IT job market is bordering on healthy,” says Strom, whose Job Angels are sponsored by the Regional Chamber and Growth Association of St. Louis. “There are openings, and if you have the right IT skills, you will get a job.”
Greg Detter, branch manager for Robert Half Technology’s consulting services in the city, reports activity among his clients has stepped up and job candidates are getting offers more quickly. If they want good talent, that means companies need to cut back on lengthy job interview processes. “Candidates are moving a lot quicker so it’s making it difficult to find highly qualified talent,” says Detter. “Candidates are getting two or three offers now.”
Michelle O, lead IT recruiter for COMSYS, a division of Manpower Professional, agrees the outlook on the area’s IT scene is improving. “I wouldn’t say we are strong,” she says. “We’re still feeling the effects of the recession. But we are stronger compared to 2008.”
The types of skill-sets in demand vary. O always has a need for developers and, more recently, business analysts, project managers and people with Cisco networking expertise. The bulk of offers are long-term contracting, though some fulltime positions are appearing, as well. Kyle Kurtzeborn, account manager at the St.Louis-based Total Staffing Solutions, sees job orders for .NET developers and open source experts, but not for business analysts and project managers. His clients have open contractor and contract-to-perm positions.
Unlike Kurtzeborn, Detter is placing more project manager and business analysts. “We just recently placed a handful of project managers and that’s good for the project lifecycle,” he notes. He also sees demand for tech support, helpdesk, PC technicians, systems administrators and .NET developers.
Most recruiters agree St. Louis has a strong healtcare vertical. Also, finance started to see a turnaround at the end of last year.
In May, area job postings on Dice stood at 490, a 1.4 percent month-over-month improvment and a 1.0 percent rise from the previous year. St. Louis has a 10 percent unemployment rate, though the unemployment rate among IT professionals is lower than that, says Strom.
— Sonia R. Lelii