Web-centric job tip: Brush up on in-demand tech skills

Tech workers are seeing a shift in the kind of programming language skills technology employers are looking for. Web-centric skills – HTML, Visual Basic, and C Language – are sliding, while the need for C++, XML and SQL skills remain steady.
IT workers are concerned about what tech skills are in demand right now, particularly with the economic downturn adding to the competition for programming jobs.
Trends in the most requested skills in the technology workplace were recently the subject of a study completed by Techies.com. The popular IT professionals Web site focuses on helping “techies” find jobs, enhance their skills and stay informed about tech employment and training trends.
One trend uncovered by the Tech Skills Demand Index study showed that, for the second consecutive year, Unix reigns supreme.
We caught up with Nick Doty, editor at Techies.com, to talk about the rise of Tornado, why HTML is taken for granted and why the Project Manager is the most secure tech job position to have.
Q: Tell us about your findings that Unix is topping the list of what tech employers are looking for.
Doty: This is our annual Tech Skills Demand Index where we compare the shift in demand over the past year for skills demanded by employers. It’s a really simple index that we pull based on our job listings at Techies.com. Wherever we find the most occurrences of a certain skill requested by those job listings, depending on how many times that skill appears overall nationwide, it gets a certain ranking from us. Unix, in general, was on top again this year – and specifically the Unix Tornado development form, which is kind of an emerging hybrid, if you will.
Q: Tornado?
Doty: It’s kind of hard to describe, but it’s basically a new way of using the Unix platform for delivering enterprise solutions. We’ve seen a demand in security related skills increase. Of course Unix is a very widely used technology among employers and it’s ever growing, what with the core systems and security projects going on.
Q: Are you saying the Unix operating system is seeing a resurgence of interest among employers or has it always been this strong?
Doty: I wouldn’t call it a resurgence. Unix has really maintained its dominance. For the last two consecutive years we have seen employers focusing on more core systems and development projects, such as infrastructure, and less focused on GUI and the more front end stuff you see with Internet technology. Unix maintains its lead. Last year it was in 14% of all our job listings.
Q: I’m curious about this new Unix Tornado skill. I know Techies.com offers online training. Do you have training for Tornado to make us more desirable to employers?
Doty: We have dozens of Unix courses. The Tornado development is not something we offer right now. But if techies are interested in that, there are definitely courses being offered out there. With all these crossover technologies and with the emergence of .NET competing with Java, people are wondering how we are going to integrate all of these into companies and come up with one big solution. Unix Tornado development seems to be an emerging successful combination. But people can certainly get 75-80 percent of their necessary training if they want to be certified for a networking position involving Unix technology.
Q: With every study that shows “What’s Hot,” people are interested in “What’s Not.” I found it interesting that your research showed HTML skills were not so hot. Why do you think that is?
Doty: HTML is almost becoming an assumed skill. If you have a college or associates degree or certification and it has anything to do with Computer Science, most employers are assuming you are versed in HTML. If you know Java or C++, HTML is just sort of a stepping-stone to getting that knowledge. Employers might not then list HTML in their job descriptions, so it is harder to tell if HTML’s use or popularity has slid in the last year. I think it’s in its highest demand ever, but it’s not necessarily going to be posted if you have all these other emerging technologies that are your second and third step to being an experienced web developer.
Q: Why have Visual Basic and C language declined?
Doty: These may be victims of the ever-emerging technologies from Microsoft. They’re just going to be replaced by quicker, younger, faster technology and I don’t see the slide as being very dramatic where all of a sudden they’re going to be obsolete. You know, a lot of people thought COBOL or Pascal were going to be wiped out and all those COBOL-ers were going to be done after Y2K. But companies are finding a lot of benefits to maintaining these legacy technologies. Even the popularity of the mainframe seems to be coming on, because when you’re concerned about security, the mainframe is the safer option. Companies that were nervous about that in the past are no longer as nervous about deploying some of the latest technologies. They want something that works, and it’s not necessarily the newest, latest and greatest. We’ve seen that through Windows XP and others, which have not solved as many issues as we had thought.
Q: Plus the new programming languages have fewer experienced people who can develop against them and those folks make a lot of money. So to be cost-effective, employers are going to use the existing labor force and technologies.
Doty: Correct. I should mention that these reports deal with baby boomers reaching retirement age. In the next 5-10 years, we’re going to be expecting a lot of demand increases for people to learn some of these legacy technologies. Companies are not expected to just dump them. Managers on down to your beginning-level techies are going to see a lot of opportunity to step in and learn these legacy technologies. I think the government especially is starting to get nervous about this inevitable, dramatic turnover in the workforce.
Q: Certainly XML, C++ and SQL are strong technologies out there. What is driving those?
Doty: I think C++, like I touched on with COBOL, is just such a good, solid, versatile skill. You’re finding similar success with Java. It’s such a great skill that was deployed and adapted by so many corporations that its going to be a long time before people need to worry about their C++ skills decreasing in demand. C Sharp is on its way up, but when these skills come out and you hear about the hottest skills, it’s important to differentiate between “hot skills” and “demanded skills.” The overall demand for a skill really tells you what the job market needs. The “hot skills” don’t. You hear about XML and .NET. The employers aren’t going to buy that technology and deploy it within months. That’s going to be a several year process to transition to that. For those web developers out there who are schooled in C++ or Java, you really shouldn’t be that worried about spending another $10,000 or whatever it takes to take a boot camp to train in the latest technology.
Q: What are the broad skill sets a tech worker should train on? Companies are laying people off and adding more responsibility to remaining positions, so employees need a diverse background.
Doty: I think the best example of a job function that has evolved with the market change is the Project Manager position. Project Managers used to be involved from the 30,000-foot level managing integration and software development projects. Now they’re the ones doing coding and less management. You’re seeing them take on what used to be 4-5 positions. That can be applied across a number of positions. Network Administrators, for instance, are now taking on ownership of integration. They may even be involved in software asset management. There are needs for companies to find the “overall techie” that can come in and drive the business using a variety of technologies and knowledge acquired through training or past job experience. Tech employees are definitely getting an opportunity now to use everything they’ve learned. It’s all coming into play. They’re not just the programmer anymore.