The lack of people over 50 working in tech is a strong indication that this group need to reskill - a new study has found. The latest research by BCS reveals that while 31% of the workforce are aged 50+, just 22% of those working in IT roles are over 50 years old.
The report claims that, if representation in IT were equal to the workforce 'norm' - there would have been an additional 119,000 IT specialists in the UK aged 50 or above, or 480,000 in total. The potential in 2019 was 95,000, so the picture for older professionals is getting worse, although the potential pool of experience has commensurately increased for organisations.
In 2020, there were estimated to be around 13,000 unemployed IT specialists in the UK aged 50 and over, which equates to an unemployment rate of 3.4% - well above the rate for IT specialists aged 16-49 (2.2%). In 2019 this was 8,000, so again this reflects a significant worsening of the situation.
Unsurprisingly, older IT specialists are more likely to hold ‘responsible positions’ with almost half (47%) having managerial or supervisory status in their job - compared with 38% of younger IT specialists. However, this is down from 52% in 2019.
On a positive note, there is an upward trend in qualification levels with younger IT specialists much more likely to hold an IT degree than those aged 50 and above (8% versus 14% during 2020.)
Lifetime Skills Guarantee will help address skills gap
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Kathy Farndon, Chair of BCS Society Board says: ‘The figure for over 50s working in IT is significantly lower than in other sectors, but government plans (recently outlined in the Queen's Speech) to introduce a Lifetime Skills Guarantee, is a significant step towards addressing the digital skills gap.
These plans will provide more people with access to the digital skills training they need to continue working in fulfilling careers and will help develop the skills the economy needs to recover from the impact of the pandemic.
‘There continues to be a significant demand for digital skills - not just for an increasing number of digital occupations, but across all occupations as a result of businesses having to digitally transform during COVID. Currently, almost 70 per cent of employers are struggling to find workers with the right skills which is costing British industry billions.’
Jackie Weaver: Older people bring experience
Zoom star Jackie Weaver - who shot to fame with her calm handling of a meeting of Handforth Parish Council earlier this year - added: Just as we make assumptions about town and parish councillors being mainly white males we tend to think of IT being something that is enhanced by youth.
In both instances we miss the point that older (yes 50 is considered ‘older’) people bring with them the invaluable resource of experience. If we do not acknowledge and address this issue we are simply doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Youth and experience both have a role to play and blinkered reliance on one or the other is a backward step.’