IT scoring ageist own goal

Don't let age debate hide the industry's real problem

Don't let age debate hide the industry's real problem

Ageist employment practices are not unique to IT: ageism afflicts most sectors. But discriminating against older IT professionals on the grounds that they are "past it" is a spectacular own goal by employers.

The human capital of the IT workforce is measured in terms of knowledge and experience. That is why young programmers from bankrupt dotcoms are highly prized, despite the stigma of failure. By the same token, IT professionals aged 40+ should be seen as an even more valuable resource.

But the need to confront ageism should not blind us to the real problem facing the IT profession - how to re-skill for the Web-enabled future.

The Internet is creating a two-tier pattern of demand for IT skills: not young versus old but Web versus the rest. If you are stuck with just one "legacy" programming skill, and have no project management or business leadership experience, you can just as easily find yourself in the career doldrums at 25 as at 45.

But if you retrain in the wrong Internet skill - and, with Microsoft gunning for Java, who would dare predict the future - you can still end up on the scrapheap.

Britain has an IT skills gap. Thousands of highly skilled technicians need fast, high-quality retraining to meet the challenge of the Internet. And, while personal skills development will always be the responsibility of the individual in this profession, it is a job for government, working with suppliers and universities, to come up with a strategy to create the IT workforce that can meet the challenge of e-business.

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