Challenges for older ICT professionals

Presentation by our CEO

In his talk at an event held by swissICT on 30 March 2017, Andrej Vckovski, our CEO, raised the question of whether it is possible for ICT professionals to pursue their careers until retirement age.

(Source: Netzwoche)

Unlike the Swiss average the survey conducted by the regional employment centres (RAV) in 2013 showed that the rate of unemployed ICT professionals increases significantly after the age of 50. To Andrej Vckovski, however, this does not provide sufficient evidence that older ICT professionals have been discriminated against. While acknowledging that old age unemployment tends to be a problem, he cautioned that he had been unable to detect signs of "deliberate age discrimination".

Task falls on both employers and employees

Doubtless it would be better to keep older ICT professionals working for as long as possible, Andrej Vckovski continued. That would be an important contribution towards combating the skilled labor shortage. Most of all, biases towards older employees would have to be addressed. Opinions claiming that they are expensive, difficult to manage or inflexible are widely held, he added. On the plus side, those deficiencies are offset by their experience, established industry networks and higher resilience and loyalty.

At the end of his talk, Andrej Vckovski revealed that his magic formula is “continuing education” which requires further training on the job, off the job through external providers along with a willingness to "de-specialize". With regard to the third item, both employees and employers were advised to avoid the creation of knowledge silos. They would harm both parties in the long term.  Employers risk becoming dependent on individual experts and employees risk missing the boat when their areas of specialization are no longer in demand.

Employees should therefore include a mix of generalists and specialists. This was a task to be jointly tackled by employees and employers. "Preserving the ability to work is a responsibility shared by employees and employers," emphasized Andrej Vckovski. As long as they were sufficiently involved in furthering their own education, there was no reason why ICT professionals couldn’t pursue their profession until retirement, he noted in conclusion.

Motivation for further training

At the end of the event, all presenters discussed the topic “ICT professionals over age 50” and further training. Edgar Spieler, who heads up the labor market department at the Office for Economy and Labor in Zurich, pointed out at the outset that he was unaware of any age discrimination in ICT. Reportedly, many unemployed ICT professionals failed to keep themselves informed about skills in demand and therefore were not acquiring those skills. The RAV cannot fix this situation, but only offer advice and propose continuing education opportunities, he said.

Andrej Vckovski emphasized at the panel discussion that it is quite a difficult task to motivate employees for further training. As a result, it was necessary for employers to nudge some individuals in the right direction. This point was underscored by Claudia Lienert, Head of Competence Center, Software Development at SBB IT. According to Lienert, SBB allowed employees to set aside 5 to 7 percent of working time for additional training but a lot of people failed to take advantage of that opportunity, she said.

Andrej Vckovski therefore suggested that ICT professionals should learn how to further their education while still in their initial job training. The ability to further one’s education is in itself a skill that can be acquired, he said.

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