IT departments warned over ageism

Changes to discrimination laws and a skills shortage will force employers to tackle the problem of ageism in IT

Changes to discrimination laws and a skills shortage will force employers to tackle the problem of ageism in IT, according to a leading industry recruitment body.

New laws on age discrimination come into force in 2006 and the Association of Technology Staffing Companies (Atsco) claims employers will have to tread carefully.

Ann Swain, CEO of Atsco, told ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com: "It will force people to look at CVs outside of the normal age and I think they will be pleasantly surprised when they do."

But Swain argued that the ageism currently evident in the IT industry is more down to "laziness" than anything else.

"I don't think there's any question it doesn't go on but I truly don't think it's intentional. It's just laziness. There's an unwritten perception that anyone who is 55 doesn't fit the bill. It's also very easy for someone to recruit in their own image so they go for someone between 28 and 35 with a decent business suit."

Perhaps a more important driver that will help address ageism in IT is the looming skills crisis facing the UK but Swain warned that older IT workers must ensure their skills are bang up to date.

"I've seen some of the applications from these people over 55 and their skill sets are so out of date. It is a perennial problem in our industry and you need to keep up to date and invest in your skills. Even being a year out of date is too long," she said.

To this end Atsco wants the government to grant tax breaks for UK IT contractors for retraining purposes.

"IT contractors currently cannot claim the cost of training as a legitimate business expense, which can make it very difficult for older contractors to update their skills and remain attractive to employers," said Swain.

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