Lawyers get rich while IT execs just get older

As lawyers get richer, IT execs just get older. Observing the IT landscape there are two certainties you can bet your bottom dollar on each and every week. The first is that there is yet another horde of lawyers out there engaging in a feeding frenzy as a result of the SCO Group's relentless determination to make a buck from Linux users.

But sweet mercy, it looks like the party is about to meet a sorry end (as all good parties do) as more SCO investors jump ship. This week it was the Royal Bank of Canada that walked away from its $US30 million investment in the SCO Group, only weeks after BayStar Capital also pulled the plug.

And keeping with the legal-orgy theme, BayStar has accused SCO of breaching parts of its investment agreement so there are plenty of lawsuits to go around.

You see, when SCO isn't busy launching lawsuits against IBM, Novell and Red Hat, it is the butt of lawsuits from its very own investors.

The SCO Group is like a blank cheque for lawyers as years of legal wrangling is yet to be played out in the courts. Will one of these great legal minds that counsel SCO remind its principal it is a Unix vendor not a misguided IP warrior? I doubt we will hear a whimper, especially while lawyers are busy filling their pockets.

The second certainty, which is a given, is that we are all getting older. I know I'm stating the obvious but we are all part of an ageing workforce that threatens a serious skills shortage if it continues to be ignored by government and employers.

There are a few organizations taking the lead by introducing job-share programs to help retain older workers, most notably banks such as NAB and ANZ.

NAB is running an ageless workforce pilot analysing the needs of workers over 45 while ANZ has introduced flexible working arrangements such as job sharing and compressed working weeks for its more mature employees. For the IT sector, there is a critical need to retain mainframe skills with analysts forecasting a shortage by 2007.

Let's face it, mainframe technologies were around before many of the current generation of newbie techies were even born and Meta Group says ageing IT professionals will be retiring in large numbers over the next few years. The findings are drawn from a Meta survey of 300 companies that have mainframe staff.

More than 90 percent had no strategy in place to deal with the diminishing pool of skilled mainframe workers.

Apparently more than half of IT workers with mainframe skills are more than 50 years old. This is not surprising when you consider that universities have moved away from teaching mainframe technologies. While some do still teach Cobol programming it is being phased out for newer technologies.

The race is on between how soon these people retire and how soon companies transition their legacy systems to other platforms. But employers really are staring down the barrel of a gun unless they start planning today. Australia will not remain internationally competitive over the next 10 to 15 years unless employers retain their most skilled and valuable employees and create an environment that encourages flexible working options for the "aged positive" (this is the term used by the UK government in its campaign to tackle age discrimination in the workplace).

Are you aged positive (over 50) and hatching retirement plans? Share your ageing wisdom and let us know how you address the oldies issue. E-mails to sandra_rossi@idg.com.au

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