Career routes blocked for IT managers

Analysts warn that the aging workforce may be reducing advancement opportunities for senior IT professionals

IT managers and senior professionals are facing blocked career paths as the workforce ages, IT human resources analysts have warned.

Diaz Research, which specializes in IT HR issues and works with blue-chip enterprises in London, warned that the aging workforce was "clogging up" senior posts, reducing opportunities for those seeking to step up.

"The number of over-50s is increasing very quickly at the moment," Diaz Research founder Iain Smith said. At the same time, because many major companies had done little or no graduate recruitment over the past five years, there was an "absence of people under 30" in the IT departments of many firms.

Figures drawn from the Labour Force Survey and published by learning and skills council E-Skills UK last month show that 42 percent of the workforce is now over 40, with just 22 percent aged under 30.

Smith warned that the lack of career paths could add to recruitment and retention problems.

Employers must think about the "career proposition" for more senior IT professionals, who no longer see the prospects they once expected, he said. "There is an element of disillusion creeping in. The career proposition they signed up for -- expansion, growth, rapid movement -- has closed up.

"The issues are worst at the top end. We've got a disparity between people's past experience and expectations and the present reality," he added.

"Mid-career, the rules have changed. There is a general clogging up from the middle to the top."

IT departments should think about what they can offer these IT professionals, "and how they can be re-energized", he said

Smith also urged IT departments that have started recruiting graduates again to draw in cohorts of recruits at a time, to ensure that new young staff were not isolated, leading to retention problems. "They need peers -- and when they come [into the IT workforce] today, you don't have a group of them."

The IT industry should also make greater efforts to reassure potential recruits who are worried about the effects of offshoring, Smith said. "We looked at end-user company websites... and we were surprised to find no mention of offshoring whatever."

But offshoring was an important concern for people considering their future in the IT industry, and one where employers need not be so reluctant to state the facts, Smith said.

Companies could reassure IT professionals that offshoring had matured, "only certain work" was likely to be offshored in future, he argued.

Smith added: "This is bigger than any one employer -- it's an issue for the industry as a whole."

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