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Lingering overall high unemployment rates are of little comfort to South Florida informational technology executives, who are increasingly worried about losing their employees, a new report has found.

The report also found IT budgets and salaries continue to increase, a sign of the high value being placed on skilled workers in a region where county unemployment rates range from 8.3 to 9.9 percent. It’s time to bring out the perks and up the benefits in the IT world.

While many businesses are trying to keep expenses flat, the average 2012 IT budget is expected to increase 10.2 percent this year from 8.5 percent in 2011. That fits in with a broader trend of employers to improve productivity with technology rather than hiring new workers – unless they are needed in IT, it would seem.

The Protech report involved two surveys of 700 IT executives (from the director to chief information officer level) and more than 15,000 IT technical professionals in South Florida. Protech is a Boca Raton-based IT employee search and staffing firm.

(A photo gallery to the right gives some of the details from the report, including comparisons to previous years.)

The 10th Annual Tech Leadership survey revealed 42 percent of tech leaders plan to increase IT staff this year, up from 37 percent planning an increase the previous year.

More than half of the Tech Executives (57 percent) are concerned about losing top IT talent in 2012. The top reason continues to be compensation with a 58 percent response.

The number of companies offering professional development and technical training jumped to 88 percent, a 25 percentage point increase. For the first time since 2006, employee retention and training came up as key non-technology priorities for IT hiring executives.

“With IT employment at an all-time high, it’s becoming an increasingly competitive landscape for employers to secure and retain top IT talent” said Protech CEO Deborah Vazquez.

A marked shift is also taking place towards direct employment versus temp staffing in this year’s survey, showing the balance of direct employees up by 21 percent compared to 2011.

“Employers are more confident about making longer term hiring decisions in IT which can further propel corporate growth and streamline operations” said Vazquez.

The Eighth Annual Tech Talent survey showed the most important aspects when considering a job are: salary, stability, benefits, work-life balance and career growth. Flextime/telecommuting was cited as the best perk offered by a past/present employer followed by bonuses (including sign-on, retention and annual bonuses).

Employees received an average 2011 pay increase of 3.5 percent, compared with 2 percent in 2010.

“We are effectively now in an employee-driven market due to low unemployment in IT and specialized candidates weighing multiple job offers,” said Vazquez.

Jackie Fernandez, executive director of the South Florida Technology Alliance    , which will help distribute the report, said, “We are pleased to be able to offer our membership and the South Florida Tech community with this valuable local IT market data depicting a strong IT economy in South Florida.”

About the SFTA

The South Florida Technology Alliance (SFTA) promotes the growth, success and awareness of the regional technology community. Through events, networking, programs and education, we provide south Florida’s technology-related companies, academic institutions, entrepreneurs, governments and related organizations with an active forum to grow the business of technology in our region.

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