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Considering how hard most solution providers will tell you it is to find IT talent, they would be crazy to launch recruiting side businesses.

Well, call them crazy, but a small group of solution providers in recent years has done just that. Though playing headhunter wasn’t exactly in their original business plans, these solution providers have tackled recruitment as another service for their customers. The providers are featured in a story titled “For Hire” in this month’s eWEEK Strategic Partner.

If nothing else, the recruitment side businesses prove that channel executives are a resourceful bunch.

How the providers got into recruitment depends on the company. For instance, MNIT Consulting, of Inver Grove Heights, Minn., created a recruiting arm in reaction to customer demand. Ensynch, of Tempe, Ariz., by contrast, bought a recruiting company six years ago to meet its own staffing needs but then turned it into a business that now accounts for 40 percent of company revenue.

That customers are turning to their technology and services providers to help find IT talent makes sense. Who, after all, is better equipped to identify and screen IT talent?

And who, when you really think about it, would have better insight into the kind of skills the customer’s IT department needs?

“As IT consultants, we’re the ones in front of the client providing services, and we understand their IT infrastructure,” said MNIT President John Sarzoza Jr. MNIT started offering staffing services to customers last fall.

While recruitment services by VARs may seem to counter the current trend of handing off IT functions to solution and service providers, Sarzoza points out that in some cases there is no getting around a customer’s need for a full-time IT person.

But the customers, much like the solution providers themselves, and even IT vendors, have learned that finding job candidates with the right skills is a vexing challenge. IT employers for years have complained they can’t find people with the requisite skills or talent.

It’s a controversial issue, to be sure, because every time you say there aren’t enough qualified candidates for available jobs, IT job seekers come out of the woodwork to complain that no one will hire them.

What that means is a disconnect exists between job seekers and employers. I suspect that at least to some extent, it has to do with the qualifications of candidates versus the skills employers are seeking. Unfortunately, the industry hasn’t figured out a way to bridge this disconnect. A concerted effort within the industry is needed to work with colleges and third-party trainers to adequately prepare people interested in IT jobs.

Of course, the dynamics of the market may be about to change. As the economy slows down, layoffs become commonplace, and greater numbers of people with technical skills are going to be contacting recruiters and potential employers.

For the solution providers with headhunting side businesses, this could provide a boon of job candidates. That boon, however, may come just as employers have to throttle hiring as a result of budget constraints.

Should that happen, recruitment will be another business those solution providers will have to manage carefully to weather the storm. But once things pick up again, and hiring accelerates, they should have a leg up because of their ability to provide a much-needed service to their customers.

Pedro Pereira is editor of eWEEK Strategic Partner and a contributing editor for Channel Insider. He can be reached at