BCS member hits out at industry's misguided age discrimination

Age discrimination in the IT industry is a misguided and shortsighted approach by employers and job agencies, said BCS...

Age discrimination in the IT industry is a misguided and shortsighted approach by employers and job agencies, said BCS professional grade member Rodney Max-Lino.

Max-Lino has experienced age discrimination at first hand, both when hiring staff over the age of 35 and when seeking a job at the age of 50. "I have become increasingly alarmed at the widespread prejudice about age in the IT industry," he said.

"One very important factor is the role of recruitment agencies, or consultancies, search and selection partnerships, headhunters or whatever they choose to call themselves: one of their first five questions is about your date of birth.

"One agency argument is that they do not want to place someone who will not be able to fit in with the culture and social balance.

"This is rubbish. As an employer and a candidate, I and many others I have discussed this with, have found that a cultural and age mix enhances a team rather than producing a bunch of like-minded, unproductive automatons.

"There is the positive impact of experience on younger members, and of fresh new approaches and ideas on older members. Healthy debate ensues, and the team evolves and grows with the organisation's needs and those of its customers.

"Some agency staff say, 'You want a Unix systems administrator with x years experience, but we have some candidates with half that who would join you for a £10,000-£15,000 less, so you could hire a trainee and an experienced person for not much more of your budget.'

"Senior management in the UK implement this as prudent fiscal policy; then, when productivity falls, followed by customer satisfaction and a subsequent loss in profit, they panic and make their most loyal and productive - usually the most experienced - staff redundant, and then complain about a lack of properly trained and experienced people.

"Articles talk about the shrinking IT market and lack of skills in high-demand areas. This has been brought about by the refusal of agencies and companies to invest in experience and retrain those most able to adapt by the nature of their many years in the industry: those over 35.

"After being made redundant by a logistics company I applied to a number of agencies for more than 1,500 jobs in four months, all in service support management and located throughout the UK. I did not receive one response or follow-up call from the agencies until I removed my date of birth from my CV.

"I then got 25 calls on my next 250 applications. On every occasion I was asked for my date of birth in the first three questions and the conversation ended within 90 seconds of that information being given. Needless to say, I never heard from the callers again."

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