Companies pour on the perks in hiring

April 17, 2000|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Knight Ridder/Tribune

Joe Ochoa, a Web development guru, knows what it feels like to be wanted.

Ochoa, 36, and his wife recently spent a night at a luxury hotel in Dallas, courtesy of ServiceLane. com, which was recruiting him for an executive position. To help them get around the city, the company hired a limousine. And just to make certain his wife was on board, the Dallas-based dot-com sent her to a health spa for a day of pampering.

"We really wanted him," said Lee Blaylock, president and chief executive of ServiceLane.com, which over a five-month period has ramped up from seven employees to about 70.

Ochoa joined the company last month as vice president of Web operations. All the attention "definitely ended up making a difference," he said.

These are good times indeed for workers with the right skills in information technology, as demand for their capabilities continues to grow. Employers have to scramble to fill vacant positions.

A survey released last week by the Information Technology Association of America reported that employers will create demand for 1.6 million new high-tech positions this year. With demand far outstripping supply, half of these positions will go unfilled. That means one in every dozen of the 10 million jobs in the U.S. information-technology industry will be vacant, the Arlington, Va.-based trade group reported.

The greatest need for high-tech workers is at smaller companies whose primary business is unrelated to technology, the group said. About 70 percent of the total demand for all new IT workers will come from such firms. Managers from smaller companies, with between 50 and 99 employees, also reported the highest rate of unqualified applicants and the greatest difficulty in filling positions.

Web development skills are in very high demand, the trade group said. At ServiceLane.com, which offers referrals to local professional services firms, Blaylock said he is spending more than 30 percent of his time on hiring. Also in demand are people who can integrate networks of personal computers for large organizations.

Other jobs that are in high demand include technical support positions. The skills ranking highest for such jobs are hardware and software installation, systems monitoring, troubleshooting and customer service. Also, demand for workers with Web-related talent accounts for about 13 percent of all high-tech jobs.

At Texas Instruments Inc., managers are now seeking to fill about 1,200 openings. Historically, the Dallas-based maker of chips used largely in cellular phones generally has about 500 vacancies.

Last year, TI was so desperate for skilled workers that it paid a total of $600,000 in bonuses to employees who offered candidate referrals. Employees were then entered into a grand prize drawing for a Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicle, which was given to a TI engineer in Houston.

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