ICT sector should retain baby boomers say experts

Even though Australia is currently experiencing an ICT skills shortage, many IT veterans are “driving taxis”, according to the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA).

Despite an aging population which is having a negative impact on Australia’s talent pool, AIIA CEO, Sheryle Moon, said 50 year-olds are still perceived as being past their use-by-date in the workforce.

“At the same time, the latest census data reveals that 11 per cent of Australia’s population is between 55 and 64. It is these people that the ICT industry needs to do more to attract, retain and retrain,” Moon said.

She pointed to a survey released last week by career management firm, Linkme.com.au, which found almost three-quarters of Australians believe that finding new employment – across all industries – after 50 is almost impossible.

“People are telling me that they feel ‘on the scrapheap’ once they hit 45, and yet these are the very people who have a lifetime of skills and experience to harness,” Moon said.

The 2006 Australian Computer Society’s Employment Survey, released in September 2006, reinforces these results, which found that one in five respondents felt they had been discriminated against on the basis of their age.

There was a clear divide between those aged 45 or over and those under 45 – mature workers were much more likely to have encountered age discrimination.

“Alarmingly, 34.1 per cent of 46-50 year olds had experienced some discrimination because of their age; this figure rises to 76.9 per cent of 61-65 year olds,” Moon said.

“One woman I spoke to recently said she was advised by a recruitment company to change her resume to say ‘more than 10 years’ experience’ instead of ‘more than 20’ and to remove the dates from her degrees; all to reduce the perception that ‘older’ means ‘out-of-date’.”

In the ICT industry, where work is increasingly based on knowledge-creation, the focus needs to be on the workplace as a key arena for encouraging ‘lifelong learning’ as part of work, she said.

Retaining and retraining older workers will save recruiting costs, maintain institutional memory and technical knowledge and give a higher return on investment in training.

However, it’s not just the responsibility of employers, according to Moon.

“Employees need to recognize that they work in a fast-paced industry where training is paramount,” she said.”Continuing employment or re-entering the workforce may require a commitment to retrain and some attitudinal shifts too. The most important factor in a mature person’s employment prospects is: are they adaptable?

“Those most at risk of redundancy and underemployment have had fewest opportunities to acquire new skills and develop a positive attitude to learning.”

Moon said the industry’s prosperity is partly dependent on mature-age workers remaining in the workforce for as long as possible, adding that its time to discard negative perceptions of baby boomers.

Queensland-based recruitment firm, Talent International, this week called on industry to address the decline of the baby boomers and increase the talent pool.

The company’s general manager, Alan Thompson, said older staff required adequate training and development opportunities to continue their professional development.

“One thing that continues to be crucial to this and really all recruitment markets, is this need to ensure that while new candidate markets such as Gen Y enter, we cannot forget about the existing generations who have set incredible standards of dedication and loyalty,” Thompson said.

“Employers are in a fairly dynamic recruitment environment at present as there are such definitive groups in existence, however, by recognizing each groups’ contributions and needs, they can maintain an actively growing yet satisfying work environment for employees.”

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