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Six most desired skills from IT contractors

As companies invest in advanced, specialized information technologies, they are running into a big problem: They don’t have the qualified people needed to manage and support these new systems. While cloud computing, data analysis, mobile platform development and other emerging areas of IT can reap big dividends for businesses, they only translate into wasted money if organizations do not have highly skilled professionals at the controls. By recruiting IT experts that can confidently design, manage and support complex tech systems, employers can ensure their businesses remain competitive and profitable.

Here are the top skills that employers desire from IT contractors:

1. Cloud/mobile development
Many of the complex technological innovations that initially met skepticism or confusion when they were first introduced are now being embraced, and the best example of this trend is cloud computing.

"As the questions around cloud are answered and the benefits are becoming obvious, businesses are adopting a cloud-first strategy as they plan new technology projects," noted a recent CompTIA report. "The fear of cloud computing has diminished greatly. Even government agencies, a segment that initially had great concern around cloud, have adopted a cloud-first mandate."

Closely entwined with the cloud are mobile applications. To remain relevant and reach consumers wherever they are, businesses are adopting a mobile-focused approach that ensures that company information and services can be instantly accessed and securely transferred to the cloud. As a result, IT contractors who have the skills to build, maintain and support mobile and cloud computing applications are highly valuable to employers.

2. IT security
The larger that data and web systems become, the more vulnerable they are to breaches.

According to a report by Travelers, about one in 10 businesses believes it has been the victim of a cyberattack. For larger organizations, that number jumps to one in 5. The report also found that cybersecurity is a top concern of U.S. companies, second only to rising healthcare costs. It is also one of the threats that businesses feel least prepared to face.

IT contractors with IT security skills are consequently highly desirable in this climate. They must be able to strengthen existing systems against attacks, effectively implement privacy and encryption measures, and respond swiftly in the event of a breach.

3. Data analytics
The businesses of today are dealing with larger amounts of data than ever before. Big data is revolutionizing how organizations collect and interpret information, and with the growing use of smartphones and tablets and the expanding Internet of Things, they are able to gather data from a sprawling number of sources. This data can then be analyzed to determine consumer profiles and tastes, anticipate market changes or forecast top-performing products, among other applications.

Without data analysts, all that information just collects virtual dust. That’s why data analytics is one of the most important skills for IT contractors to have today. Job seekers should be able to both manage and interpret data. Creating intuitive programs and algorithms that can guide business decisions, mining for data in vast systems, drawing conclusions from such data and presenting these findings in easy-to-read reports are all valuable skills for IT contractors.

4. VMware for virtualization engineers
As companies wrangle with massive amounts of data and employ advanced mobile and cloud applications, the demand for quick, agile computer systems that can instantaneously process and analyze large amounts of data from multiple sources is growing – and this is why skills in VMware are a must-have.

Virtualization enables multiple programs, applications and operating systems to be run on just one computer, and in turn, greatly expands a business’ processing power.

Virtualization engineers need to think closely about the needs of both their organization and its customer base, so that they can maintain systems that work seamlessly and dependably.

5. Web content/social media management
Of course, it’s not enough for organizations to have an online presence through websites, mobile apps or social media pages. They need to have a robust presence that is constantly updated with dynamic content that establishes them as the leader in their industry. A robust presence garners the attention of prospective customers – and keeps established ones coming back.

That’s why web content and social media management is a vital skill for IT contractors. Employers are looking for candidates that can deftly source, create and share engaging online content. They need to be experts at content management systems – and have the ability to build new systems if necessary. They must also have a thorough understanding of the approaches to content that will garner the most engagement with current and future clients.

6. Help desk support
Technical skills aren’t the only abilities in demand for IT contractors – employers are also looking for communication and support skills. As companies’ digital systems grow, and an increasing number of employees and users are interacting with the systems daily, the need for skilled contractors who have both the technical proficiency and the interpersonal skills to assist users and help them benefit from the new technologies is only rising.

Ultimately the key to remaining marketable as an IT contractor is to not only complete quality work while on assignment, but also stay current on emerging technologies and skill sets that can provide additional job opportunities. Be sure to check out CDI University for free, 24/7 access to thousands of courses, books and other learning resources.