Thrills and spills of ICT job market

Working in the ICT job market is a bit like a rollercoaster ride. There have been plenty of thrills and spills over the past decade and it looks set to remain bumpy for some time to come. It is a market that can only be described as patchy, especially when so many variants come into play.

First you need to have the right skills sets, those that are hot and right now. Then there is industry sector; being in the right vertical can determine if you are on your way up the slope or about to come hurtling down at great speed. And then there is training, those constant refreshes to update your knowledge base so you can command big dollars.

The constantly shifting and changing fortunes of this industry are reflected in the fact that up to 80 percent of ICT jobs are held by contractors. It is a market like no other. Just take a look at the Australian Computer Society's (ACS) ICT Employment Survey released this week which shows unemployment in the R&D and education sector has nearly tripled in two years. At the same time, Hays released its 2005 IT Survey which shows salaries for IT staff have climbed between 3 to 6 percent in the past 12 months. Did I mention the ICT industry is patchy?

Another interesting report to surface this week came from Victoria's Centre for Innovative Industry Economic Research which found an unwillingness by the ICT industry to employ people over 45 years of age even though they are qualified and have an abundance of experience. It's hard to believe such a superficial barrier to employment exists in an age when most 40-year-olds are still playing computer games.

It is so unlike previous generations which were mortgaged, married and miserable by the age of 21.

Today, nobody makes life decisions before turning 30 and reaching 50 is prime time.

The report didn't mince words either, stating: "There was general agreement that a lot of experienced ICT people have been discarded at 45-55 years of age."

It was accepted there was some valid reasons for this situation including downsizing, mergers and offshoring. But the real problem is changing attitudes, with the report pointing out that there is a perception that older workers cannot learn new skills and a belief that younger people have higher energy levels and work longer hours. Thankfully, as the population ages and there are fewer skilled people coming through, employers will have little choice and they will be forced to discard this ageist attitude.

What do you think, can those over 55 handle the ride? Feedback

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