More than one in five tech workers in the UK are over 50, and getting more of them into the information technology sector could help bridge the ongoing skills gap.
According to a study by the British Computer Society (BCS), only 22% (413,000) of the 1.9 million IT professionals in the domestic industry are over 50 years old.
BCS asserted, based on data provided, that the group would need an additional 148,000 people in the skills sector to match the average number of over-50s across all other UK employment areas (561,000). Provided by the National Statistical Office.
Rashik Parmar MBE, CEO of BCS, said: “We can close the digital skills gap and make this important profession attractive to a far greater number of people, so the UK can achieve the Government’s ambition of becoming the ‘next Silicon Valley’.”
The UK government’s latest plan, outlined in Prime Minister Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement, is to transform the island nation into “the next Silicon Valley.” Does that sound plausible? Planning to bake in the oven? No, we didn’t think so either.
The age factor was most pronounced in the North East of England, where only 1 in 8 programmers/developers were over 50 years old.
In 2021, an estimated 13,000 IT professionals will be out of work after half a century. That equates to an unemployment rate of 3.1% compared to 1.5% for those aged 16 to 49, the BCS said. Older technicians who are still employed are more likely to be self-employed and more likely to work part-time than younger technicians, he added.
In terms of qualifications, the older IT crowd is 64% less likely to have higher education qualifications, compared to 84% of 16-49 year olds. And 9% are likely to have an IT degree, while 12% of the younger group are likely to have an IT degree.
The average hourly wage for senior technicians is 25, which is 14% higher than that of all IT professionals.
“Information technology changes lives, but employers are having a hard time finding workers with the right digital skills. The number of people over 50 working in IT is much lower than in other fields,” said Parmar.
“Given how computing is woven into everyday life, this obviously comes at a cost to the economy and society,” he added. “There should be a message that you can be an ethical, trustworthy, highly competent tech professional, no matter your background or age.”
As an aside, Parmar, who joined BCS last August, was previously an IBM colleague and vice president of technology. The company has been criticized in recent years for sending out mature and experienced technicians. Many people have brought age discrimination cases, some of which have been settled.
According to the October study, a cost-of-living crisis is forcing retirees to return to the office to top up their pensions and manage household bills. But because jobs in tech pay relatively well, an IT engineer who decides to retire is unlikely to return, according to global recruitment agency Robert Walters.
The agency added that returning to technology is not necessarily easy for retirees as they may have missed out on qualifications and exposure to evolving technology.
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