Simple solution to an age old problem

The UK has a schizophrenic attitude to IT's skills crisis. While it is routinely accepted that IT departments are struggling to fill vital positions, barriers are placed in the way, either by the government or our own blinkered approach, which exacerbate the problem.

The UK has a schizophrenic attitude to IT's skills crisis. While it is routinely accepted that IT departments are struggling to fill vital positions, barriers are placed in the way, either by the government or our own blinkered approach, which exacerbate the problem.

Whatever the merits of the Labour government's IR35 tax legislation, it has resulted in a reduced pool of talented contractors to draw on. More significant, perhaps, is the fact that there is a whole swathe of potential high-tech workers being ignored on the basis of age, a fact underlined by a silicon.com/Employers Forum on Age survey published today. According to the findings, which are based on responses from 1,369 professionals in the high-tech sector, 66 per cent of us worry about getting a job in IT after the age of 45. An almost identical number say their company is finding it difficult to recruit or retain staff. Spot the link? It would appear to be a question of attitude. Twenty-one per cent of respondents thought an IT employee becomes an 'older worker' between the age of 35 and 40, while a further 25 per cent thought the age was between 40 and 45. The Employers Forum on Age represents 2.8 million older workers, or 10 per cent of the working population. It's time to stop ignoring this part of our talent base. Legislation remains an option, but is undesirable in an industry that thrives on self-regulation. It would be better for the government to promote its code of practice on age diversity to ensure companies understand the business cost of age prejudice. If this position smacks of political correctness gone mad, think of it in simple management terms. In an industry where demand outweighs supply, ignoring 10 per cent of the workforce is unforgivable.