Nick Roach, director of sales, ParagonIT Professionals
Nick Roach, director of sales, ParagonIT Professionals

How quickly has the demand for IT professionals changed over the last year? After a sudden freeze in hiring during spring 2020, ParagonIT Professionals reports the battle to attract staff has been reestablished in the Midwest. 

“The fight for talent is real,” said Nick Roach, director of sales at ParagonIT.

Based in Des Moines, the agency specializes in recruiting information technology staff for corporate clients across the Midwest and into Arizona, where ParagonIT recently announced plans to expand. 

Recruiting for IT roles in corporations nearly came to a standstill in early 2020 as pandemic-related shutdowns prompted organizations to freeze technical projects. Nationally, ComputerWorld reported more than 100,000 IT jobs were lost in spring of 2020, although two-thirds of those jobs returned by the end of the year. 

Among ParagonIT’s client base, those jobs are just now starting to open back up. 

“In many instances, organizations released hundreds of consultants that were working on projects. Unfortunately we saw organizations release full-time employees as well, downsizing operations and shutting off physical offices,” Roach said. 

The swift standstill was temporary. By the third quarter of 2020, observers began to see the market for IT staff open back up, but the opportunities are now in consulting, not full-time staffing at organizations, Roach said. 

Based on the job requests ParagonIT receives, consulting on a project-by-project basis appears to be on the rise, rather than in-house opportunities at organizations, although observers are still watching to see if that will be a short-term or long-term trend.

“There’s still some skepticism in the market,” Roach said.

“We’re seeing more and more folks from the coastal markets serving Midwest businesses just by being able to be remote. So where a lot of our clients expected that [they] need the local person, they’re not really expecting that much these days. … It’s almost given them permission to go out and say, ‘Just find me the best one, I don’t care if they’re in California or New York.’” 

“Organizations want that ‘purple squirrel,’” or perfect job candidate, he added.

Despite trends in independent consulting, there are more positions open than there are specialized IT professionals for hire, Roach said. There’s also uncertainty in what those positions will require from staff as businesses evaluate what office environments will look like following COVID-19: ParagonIT is seeing some companies turn to hybrid work environments that stagger the schedules of groups of employees, which leads to fewer employees in-office on any given day. 

“Every organization has a different culture, they have different needs. What we’re seeing as the overarching theme is companies are more flexible and open to that flex working environment,” he added. “Those that are willing and accepting a more remote workforce are appearing as a more attractive workforce to some.”