Ageism has long been an issue in technology. Every thirty-something IT professional encounters discrimination because they're deemed 'over-the-hill'.
Yet more and more younger IT professionals are also beginning to join in the debate, with half claiming that they have been held back because of their age.
The Employers' Forum on Age (EFA), which usually campaigns on behalf of older people in the workforce, is now backing ageism claims from staff in their 20s. More than one in four say that, despite having the right qualifications, they are considered too young for certain jobs, according to recent research conducted on behalf of the EFA. A similar number feel that to gain promotion they would have to leave their current employer.
One in five employees have been unfairly discriminated against in the workplace - either not being given a job or passed over for promotion, according to the annual Eden Brown Employment Attitudes survey, conducted by Gallup and published earlier this month. One third blamed ageism, with 11 per cent saying it was because they were too young.
Despite a shortage of IT practitioners that can deal with specific technologies, getting a foot in the IT door is still proving difficult for young people without the appropriate experience. "If you're starting out on your IT career and you don't have any business experience, you need to be very independently proactive," warns Simon Crockett, a director at recruitment consultancy Michael Page Technology. "We get a lot of candidates straight out of university or who've just completed an IT qualification and want to register with us, but clients still want someone with commercial experience."
"Bigger organisations have a large, mature structure and training and development plans to bring people in, but most of the recruitment opportunities are in SME's," says Crockett. Other than suggesting you compromise over the type of job you accept, Crockett has little comfort to offer first-jobbers. "Accept that you'll probably earn a low salary, especially if you don't have a germane degree. A lot of people hear about the huge salaries in IT and expect to earn that sort of money straightaway, but you also need experience and talent," he says.
The good news for everyone is that European ministers are threatening to bring in laws that would ban age discrimination, and consequently put pressure on UK firms to keep older people working longer. Proposals under the EU Employment Directive are expected to be ratified by the Autumn.
Have you been held back in your career because of ageism at either end of the scale? If you would like to comment email [email protected]. Please say if you don't want your name printed.
The problem with the youth of today...."While the industry is screaming "skills shortage" and flinging vast amounts of money at those with some knowledge, there are a large numbers of individuals out there who have IT qualifications, but who no one will employ because they don't have experience. How are they supposed to gain experience if no one will give them a break?"
Source: National Resources Survey, a joint study with Computing and The Department of Information Systems at The London School of Economics.
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