Beyond a pulse, message to the over 50s

In recent times, I've seen a lot of baby boomer IT professionals who appear to be slipping quietly into geezer mode. They look tired and act tired, and it's as if they've acquiesced to being sidelined by Generation X or Y or Z or whatever generation is getting the buzz now. That's unfortunate, because the skills that these IT professionals have honed over the course of a quarter century or so are too critical to the health of the industry to be allowed to atrophy.

That's one of the conclusions I drew from the findings of our inaugural online Vital Signs study. This quarterly online survey is a means of taking the pulse of IT professionals so we can better monitor the health of the industry that yields our livelihoods. And the results of this first one are telling.

The theme that resonated through the study is that good IT talent is getting harder to find and harder to keep. When asked to rate their ability to recruit key IT personnel compared with the same time last year, 41 percent of the respondents said it's more difficult, and only 10 percent said it's easier. One of the respondents said a posting on Monster.com that drew 500 responses within two days four years ago more recently drew only 40 responses after a week. Another lamented that he was getting a lot more qualified candidates coming in for interviews a year ago than he's getting now.

Clearly, these findings won't sit well with a lot of unemployed or underemployed IT workers who have been unsuccessful in matching their skills with the needs of employers that claim there's a scarcity of good IT talent. Then there are the older workers, our most untapped resource.

Those over 55 are the fastest-growing segment of the workforce.

Whether or not you buy the forecasts of an increasingly tight IT labour market, a positive dimension in all this is that age may no longer be the inhibitor it has traditionally been thought to be. Just last week, Computerworld.com posted a story from CareerJournal in the US about the growing number of online job sites targeting workers age 55 and older.

So to my fellow fiftysomethings who haven't gotten the message, I say knock off the geezer routine. No one's saying you should make a microphone stand adorned with long, colourful scarves a professional staple. But when it's encore time, give the crowd all you've got. This industry needs and deserves more than just a pulse.

Don Tennant is editor in chief of US Computerworld

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