Technology: Wanted: Computer experts name their salary

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A computer services group is resorting to innovative tactics in response to the chronic shortage of computer specialists in the UK. Sameena Ahmad discovers that the demand for experts means some salaries have doubled in the past two years.

Logica has just opened its first walk-in careers desk in London, inviting people who read its advertisements on London's underground trains to come in off the street, learn about the company and set up an interview.

A spokesman for the company said the office near Oxford Circus had been open just five days, but has already attracted 100 people, 60 of whom have been invited for formal interview.

The spokesman said the company has been staggered by the success of the venture: "It's about being smart. Of course we advertise in papers like everyone else, but we thought how could we stand out from other IT companies looking for staff?" he said.

"This has proved incredibly popular. We had in a highly qualified programmer from the Middle East in the office, who happened to spot the advertisement on his way into London from Heathrow. He is being interviewed next week."

Logica said the advertisements were targeted at graduates and people looking to learn about IT as well as IT professionals. Given the initial success, the group may open more desks outside London.

The company is also offering existing staff bonuses to introduce new employees. Last year the company recruited a quarter of its new people in the Netherlands this way.

Shortage of skilled IT staff has become the key factor limiting the growth of IT companies in the UK. Logica was forced to post a profits warning in June after it said it had failed to recruit computer staff quickly enough.

The problem is soaring salaries, driven by the growing reliance of business on IT and exploding demand for IT specialists to solve the millennium crisis and the possible introduction of the single currency.

The combination of wage inflation, averaging a staggering 20 per cent a year, plus growth in the number of short term contracts has led a sharp increase in staff turnover in the IT industry with computer buffs chasing the best paying contracts.

Richard Holway, who writes the IT bible, the Holway Report, said that computer staff shortages were becoming critical.

"I have heard of companies who have staff turnover rates of up to 30 per cent. It is just appalling given the costs of recruiting new staff. Demand for IT - bank loyalty cards, the Internet, electronic trading - is phenomenal and growing."

who profits from skills shortage

It is not just information technology experts who have seen their salaries rocket over the last few years.

A shortage of staff in the financial world means employers are having to pay out over the odds to secure the best people.

With tax departments struggling to find recruits, salaries have increased by 10 per cent in the last three months alone.

A head of tax working for a FTSE 100 company can earn pounds 160,000 today compared with pounds 144,000 in July.

Banks are also paying out more than they were a few months ago. A head of derivatives operations in a major bank can earn pounds 105,000 compared with pounds 98,000 three months ago.

But the most dramatic increase in demand has been for quantitative analysts who assess the financial risk of a company. Last year a PhD quantitative analyst with three years' experience could earn pounds 70,000. This year their earning potential has shot up to pounds 120,000.

In information technology, figures are comparable. A head of IT can now earn pounds 150,000 compared with pounds 125,000 a year ago.

A head of systems development can earn pounds 80,000, compared with pounds 60,000 two years ago. Programme managers can earn pounds 80,000 compared with pounds 40,000 two years ago.A project leader can pounds 65,000 compared to pounds 50,000 a year ago. A junior data base administrator can start on pounds 30,000 compared with pounds 24,500 a year ago. (Figures: Robert Walters)

- Amanda Kelly