back to article Jackie 'You have no authority here' Weaver: We need more 50-somethings in UK tech

Jackie Weaver – whose forthright handling of a local parish council planning meeting went viral earlier this year – has added her voice to concerns that there aren't enough "people of a certain age" in IT. According to the BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, about 31 per cent of the UK's total workforce are aged 50 or above …

  1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    See through

    > "The lack of people over 50 working in tech is a strong indication that this group needs to reskill."

    It's an indication that people over 50 can see over bs, low pay, long hours and being taxed to death, while corporations they work for pay next to nothing.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: See through

      I'm over 50. Work for myself. 4 day week. From home for last 20 years. Make decent money (normally £100k+). Plan to retire well before 60. Pretty sweet.

      Perhaps there's a shortage of over 50s because we earn enough to retire early? Maybe the statistic to compare us with is professionals over 50 rather than the general workforce over 50?

      1. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: See through

        I had to scale down work as a result of caring responsibilities and had to adjust life style accordingly.

        Having done that, nothing would drag me back to an office or even full time working from home: the world is full of more varied and more interesting things to do.

        Of course, I started work at a time when you could reasonably expect to buy a flat/house in your early 20s so my mortgage is long since paid off. I suspect when today's crop of youngsters reaches 50 they won't have the luxury of choice. Or perhaps even the luxury of a habitable planet. Perhaps we need to spend a bit more time worrying about them.

      2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: See through

        Make decent money (normally £100k+). Plan to retire well before 60. Pretty sweet.

        If you already have a home paid off, your children have their own jobs, the few years on such salary could let you save a bit, but how long will it last? 5-10 years? You could live frugally, but this is not the kind of money someone would expect after so many years of sacrifice.

        Such salary even if you are in your 30s, today won't let you buy a nice house, except maybe in the north. You'll live okay, but not sure if life will be significantly better than someone doing something less demanding.

        What I am trying to say is that engineers are rapidly joining the "working class", but some out of touch parties are still treating them as "the rich".

        At the same time you have those big corporations reporting making billions while their workers struggle to make ends meet. We may be looking at socialist revolution 2.0 if this goes on.

        1. FlippingGerman

          Re: See through

          From where I'm looking, someone earning 100k is rich. Not fabulously, but given that they probably own their own property too, and by over 50 have likely paid off their mortgage, they have many times the disposable income that I and the majority of the population do.

    2. martyn.hare
      Thumb Up

      Re: See through

      100% it’s that only younger people are silly enough to work longer hours without any real compensation for it. By the time folks become 50 they realise that the latest fashion in IT just comes and goes in cycles.

      Just wait until young people get old and refuse to continue maintaining say Chrome or Firefox and all of its dependencies… business go boom and no amount of money will change that!

      1. Bbuckley

        Re: See through

        Our head of department initiated a graduate program to "bring innovation to the team". Wow. This from a guy with a project management background who knows s**t about the data science work we do (we are all masters and PhDs). Dilbert in action.

    3. HildyJ Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: See through

      It's the money. (It's always the money.)

      If you work directly for a company in their IT Department or for an IT Consulting firm (and I did both before I retired), you expect and get regular salary increases and possible promotions.

      Whereas a new IT graduate starts at the bottom of the wage scale.

      No points for guessing which ones the beancounters recommend and which ones management will let go.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Electronics sector is the polar opposite.

    I work for a semiconductor manufacturer and the majority of our applications engineers are in their late 40's and above. Getting younger electronics engineers is becoming harder and we are going to start having problems over the next 5 years or so when they start retiring. I'm based in the UK and that it the situation here. I think it's also an issue in other geographies.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Electronics sector is the polar opposite.

      The problem is that companies in electronics space pay pittance to engineers. I've seen jobs with quite complex requirements paying £30k a year, whereas a young engineer could easily get twice as much doing simpler web development.

      There is a higher barrier to entry as well. For IT you only need a laptop, but for electronics you need additional equipment like scopes, meters, soldering stations plus the software that is being used in the industry is prohibitively expensive. Then you'll be spending fortune on parts that you will inevitably burn through when learning.

      Companies should at least octuple the salaries to make younger people consider getting into it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Electronics sector is the polar opposite.

        "The problem is that companies in electronics space pay pittance to engineers. I've seen jobs with quite complex requirements paying £30k a year"

        As other AC said semiconductors is a very well paid sector and we are short of qualified engineers. *

        Perhaps because people are dissuaded to come into the arena due to misinformation like this? The UK's tech future is dim enough without this.

        *For the record that's proper engineers, not software "engineers".

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: Electronics sector is the polar opposite.

          > *For the record that's proper engineers, not software "engineers".

          Have you been to job boards at all? The "proper" engineer jobs are not very well paid.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Electronics sector is the polar opposite.

            Let me just check my salary slip and confer with my colleagues, team mates, friends and acquaintances in the sector ...

            Nope no one is on anything as low as £30K. Are these for new grad positions? Or are you looking at jobs outside of the US/Europe?

            1. RegGuy1 Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Electronics sector is the polar opposite.

              Or are you looking at jobs outside of the US/UK/Europe?

              There, FTFY. Remember brexshit? :-(

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Electronics sector is the polar opposite.

                Don't fall for Brexiteer lie that the UK is no longer part of Europe. (Geographically.) They may want/think that, but the Gammon Distortion Field isn't strong enough to create that unreality.

            2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: Electronics sector is the polar opposite.

              >Nope no one is on anything as low as £30K. Are these for new grad positions? Or are you looking at jobs outside of the US/Europe?

              Or just outside London

              1. Bbuckley

                Re: Electronics sector is the polar opposite.

                Not eactly comparable but ... My son, 26, with a good physics degree and a masters in space science (mainly radiation-proof electronics) has changed jobs twice (here in Ireland) because of s**t pay and mean bstard bosses who want him to be happy with 38K euros (~£32.5K). He knows lots of others with the same story. My Dilbert bosses (in a big pharma company) hire entry-level 'data scientists' at 50-60K euros. I would expect the same story in the UK. I just can't in my heart of hearts advise him to be another bloody software 'engineer' as mentioned above. I advised him to emigrate to netherlands where there is a proper space industry or even try to get a US green card and work or a real space company. Depressing.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Electronics sector is the polar opposite.

                  Suggest a field apps engineer post in semiconductors or EDA. Sky is the limit in those engineering fields.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Electronics sector is the polar opposite.

              I took it that the original poster was looking for jobs in the UK and thus "outside of the US/EU(rope)"

              Not noticed the Brexit fairy dust having any effect on the engineering sector, although CoViD restrictions have definitely had a negative impact with many (currently) no longer offering apprenticeships, which is giving my son problems since he was looking at high tech engineering apprenticeships prior to lockdown...

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Electronics sector is the polar opposite.

                "Not noticed the Brexit fairy dust having any effect on the engineering sector"

                Apart from field staff needing work permits to work in any EU country now.

    2. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Electronics sector is the polar opposite.

      Taking this in conjunction with 'This shortfall prompted the BCS to state: "The lack of people over 50 working in tech is a strong indication that this group needs to reskill"', it might also suggest that the IT sector is less bothered about accumulated experience and personal expertise in problem solving (which are both fundamental to good engineering). This certainly seems to be the case in software development, witness the several web sites dedicated to "<insert programming language> interview questions and answers".

      When I was teaching IT engineering and software development, my students actually expressed surprise that, when asked a question, I didn't immediately resort to thumbing through a textbook like (apparently) my predecessor had done. And I'm now constantly bumping into developers who state that something "can't be done" in <insert programming language> because there isn't a library method for it. I usually find it can be done with a little ingenuity, and often very simply.

      1. morningtea

        Re: Electronics sector is the polar opposite.

        I'd blame this on "modern" technology making it too easy for kids to get something done. Instead of developing complex problem solving skills early on, they only ever learn to go for the low hanging fruit and are completely lost when they have to climb the tree.

        Modern technology should make it easy to get the tedious stuff done quickly, so you can focus on solving the real problems.

  3. hoola Silver badge

    It is not skills..

    Employers in looking for IT skills persistently see older people as inflexible, unable to adapt, not in tune with modern technologies etc.

    It does not matter how good you may be, this prejudice is their and it can be very difficult to get through the door. This reasoning is often confirmed because there will be a handful of dinosaurs in the business waiting for retirement who are exactly fulfil the employer's expectations of older people.

    Also older people are often more experienced and because of where they are in their careers, more expensive.

    The issue is with the employer and is very difficult to deal with. You can legislate as much as you like but you cannot force recruitment of a particular age. All the diversity stuff is supposed to deal with this but how do you actually put this into practice?

    1. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: It is not skills..

      The issue is with the employer and is very difficult to deal with. You can legislate as much as you like but you cannot force recruitment of a particular age. All the diversity stuff is supposed to deal with this but how do you actually put this into practice?

      Taxes. It's the only mean, because it's always about money.

      You mention the real reason: older people are more expensive. So create quotas for companies with an IT department with more than 10 people, and every time this quota is not respected, tax the company. Use the money collected from the tax so subsidize smaller IT teams to reduce taxes on salaries of older people.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: It is not skills..

        And ensure the dept is 51% women, 15% non-white, 10% gay and 1% people-who-use-emacs

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It is not skills..

          DE&I BAME LGBTIQ+ OK, EMACS NO

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: It is not skills..

            Umm, sorry to be a pedantic grammar wonk, but "BAME" is no longer the accepted term*, now it is "BIPOC" - Black, Indigenous, People of Colour. (Although the USA still has the NAACP - National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, so I am somewhat sympathetic to anyone who is as confused as I am.) The trouble is that any labelling that implies 'white' is 'normal' or the expected skin colour is bound to be problematic.

            Also, although I am gay, I do get confused with all the letters after "LGBT" and what they mean.

            *See, for example, the workbook, "Me and White Supremacy", by Layla F Saad, ISBN 978-1-52940-510-1.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: It is not skills..

              >Also, although I am gay, I do get confused with all the letters after "LGBT" and what they mean.

              Dear facist please report to your nearest re-education workshop for re-programming.

              I think we will have training updates on new letters as often as we have mandatory GDPR compliance

              1. Bbuckley

                Re: It is not skills..

                As one of the said 'fascists', I am now educated to know that 'equity' is not how many high-earning company shares I will get. Maybe I went to the wrong meeting haha.

            2. Dr Scrum Master

              Re: It is not skills..

              So in most countries other than the USA, Oz, NZ, Canadia, most of the population are BIPOC (sic)...

            3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

              Re: Black, Indigenous, People of Colour

              The indigenous people of Britain are the British. So I suppose BIPOC means "nearly everybody".

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: Black, Indigenous, People of Colour

                > So I suppose BIPOC means "nearly everybody".

                Except those bloody Anglo-Saxons and Normans

                1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

                  Re: Black, Indigenous, People of Colour

                  There you go again with your Pict Supremacism

              2. Omgwtfbbqtime
                Trollface

                Re: Black, Indigenous, People of Colour

                Is Ginger a colour?

              3. Mike 137 Silver badge

                Re: Black, Indigenous, People of Colour

                "The indigenous people of Britain are the British"

                Absolutely correct Kubla Cant.

                The word they probably meant to use is exogenous. So it should be BEPOC.

          2. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: It is not skills..

            Sorry could you put that into AWK...

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: It is not skills..

              I don't want to appear prejudiced but I don't think AWK should be acceptable behavior in public - won't somebody think of the children ?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: It is not skills..

                Anglo-sax White Kids? I’m more and more confused.

        2. TRT Silver badge

          Re: It is not skills..

          TBH, I don't understand Twitter at all. To me it just looks like someone dropped a box of slugs moving them from the Ludlow to the frame-setter - a jumble of possibly related sentences of very little interest to anyone.

          Call me old fashioned if you will, but...

        3. Potemkine! Silver badge

          Re: It is not skills..

          Why not? (except for emacs)

          One have to discuss the extension of the concept, but it already exists: many European countries fix employment quotas for disabled people

          Generally, the rule is that there's no obligation to fill the quota, but if you don't want to, you pay more taxes.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: It is not skills..

            >Generally, the rule is that there's no obligation to fill the quota, but if you don't want to, you pay more taxes

            There is no obligation to follow the law, but if you don't want to you pay more fines

          2. Dr Scrum Master

            Re: It is not skills..

            Because in any randomly-selected population, it's pretty unlikely that you're going to get a distribution of people who match arbitrary characteristics of the larger population.

            As for a self-selecting population - such as people interested in IT, nursing, aircraft, boats, sewing, etc. - it's astronomically improbable that it would come close to the distribution of people who match arbitrary characteristics of the larger population.

            1. parlei

              Re: It is not skills..

              It would be trivial(ish) to determine the normal distribution of such subpopulations in employee pools larger than n, and then write the specs to match (e.g. within 95% interval, perhaps a sliding scale of tax bonus/malus). Update every <mumble> year.

              Problem is that you would then make it mandatory for employers to track their staffs sexual preferences[1] (if that was included). Age and ethnicity sounds more reasonable.

              [1] Imagine seeing the job ad: "we are looking for a female LGBT+ in the age-bracket 45-60...". And some tax inspector asking for proof of sexual preferences.

            2. Bbuckley

              Re: It is not skills..

              Unfortunately your argument is unaccetable as it is too logical which means you must be a hateful white male.

              1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

                Re: It is not skills..

                You laugh, but Australia's near-equivalent of the school exam board recently announced as Fact and a fundamental truth underpinning its new curriculum, that Maths Is Racist.

                Likewise, emphasising getting a correct answer in maths is White Supremacy.

                I'm not joking.

        4. wegie

          Re: It is not skills..

          "...and ensure the dept is 51% women, 15% non-white, 10% gay and 1% people-who-use-emacs."

          Female, queer, uses emacs. Anybody got a non-white person (pref bi or gay to make up for me only being bi) who wants to do a day a week?

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: It is not skills..

            >Female, queer, uses emacs. Anybody got a non-white person (pref bi or gay to make up for me only being bi) who wants to do a day a week?

            That sounds like an amazingly specific online dating request.

            May we wish you the best of luck on your romantic quest

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Most over 50s who worked in IT did so during the gravy train days when you could get paid ridiculous amounts of money for very little as what you did seemed like magic and there was little competition.

    As such I imagine most are happily retired to their villas in Provence.

    1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      Where's my villa?

      Over 60 here, still working, still waiting for the deed to the villa to show up in the mail. I should say that I get by with experience and common sense, seldom with anything that would pass for magic.

    2. Cederic Silver badge

      Hmm, that's the people now in their late 50s and 60s.

      The ones behind them were all outsourced to India and found jobs in more secure industries, which is why they just aren't in IT any more.

    3. chuckamok

      I'm over 60 and I don't recall them daze, but I came to IT in the 90's. I do recall getting paid training more often in the 90's. Maybe you mean over 70, the Gates and Jobs generation?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        I'm in that generation - no villa although I did discover that one of my user managers eventually settled somewhere in the general direction of Provence.

    4. David Woodhead
      Facepalm

      Oh please

      Hello Mr Coward,

      I've just read your post and, after I could stop myself reflexively facepalming, two points came to me:

      1) I'm in my 70s. You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about about the recognition, or more importantly the lack thereof, of the abilities of experienced programmers back in the 'gravy train days', whenever they were supposed to be. I most certainly have.

      2) See 1) above. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

    5. Bbuckley

      Well I hope your mobile phone keeps working since this over-50 gravy-trainer wrote a lot of GSM base-station code back in the gravy-train days and no doubt a lot of it is still lurking in the UK mobile system somewhere.

  5. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

    The problem with using numbers like this is that when I (63 now) started in IT (1988) there were a whole lot fewer of us in this profession than there is now. The expansion of this field did not happen until the mid 1990's. So of course we are going to be a lower percentage of out age group.

    My experience with older IT staff (and we have several at my employer) is they do not keep up their skill set. They tend to have specific skills or they are stuck in the same place for years. Nothing is more pathetic than a 50 yr old service desk tech who flat out refuses to learn PowerShell? (just an example)

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Or the flip side, the company they have worked for for 20 years flat out refuses to help those retrain.

      Why bother when you can get a freshly qualified kid out of uni for 1/4 the price.

      Of course when they get stumped how to sling 4 bits of theoretically incompatible kit together by different manufacturers, that cost saving is not so useful.

      1. Bbuckley

        Management will just call that 'innovation'

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My experience with older IT staff (and we have several at my employer) is they do not keep up their skill set

      I'm in a similar situation to you, but I've always been proactive at keeping up my skill set. Due to my employer's belief that "keeping up a skill set" actually means courses on "how to spot phishing attempts" and "diversity training for all", I've invested heavily in time and my own money to set up a home networking environment that many an SME would be proud of.

      Maybe I need to find some like-minded greybeards and set up a consultancy company.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Great idea, actually. I've had so many requests from colleagues who've done stuff at home and e.g. discovered that their new extension conservatory would be a great place to work except that the foil backed insulation panels in the dry wall that are pierced by grounded copper pipes seem to block all the WiFi making it useless as a SOHO workspace for them.

        Whereas at home I've got a cloud managed network with Cat 6 to every room, 200Mbps cable with failover to 4G and 3 PoE WAPs so there's coverage even at the far end of the garden. Perfect when I need to go and prick out some seedlings whilst attending the yet another round of compulsory implicit bias training or a mandatory slideshow/quiz on GDPR ("Which of these can hold personal data? Tick all that apply. A USB stick, a hard drive, a paper note pad, a tablet device, a print out of a completed job application form"). Well... why waste an afternoon?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I can empathise with the foil-backed panel victims, although the stone walls of my Victorian house seem to have the same problem. I've had to set up WiFi range extenders. I decided to run all my mission-critical stuff off a basic fibre-optic link which wasn't that expensive and has actually made everything quicker. If I can a drill through the stonework I may extend it.

          mandatory slideshow/quiz on GDPR

          Oh yes, I forgot about that one: I must add it my list of Company Certificates. In the meantime I'll have to decide between setting up my LoraWAN network or "Advanced Excel - Customing the Ribbon".

        2. MJI Silver badge

          Wifi work from home?

          What no cabled networking?

          One to my PC, one to upstairs for boys PCs and PS4s, one to my PS4.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Wifi work from home?

            *I* to that because I'm Mr IT and I've got a deck of Cisco certs. But the people I support and work with.... they're specialists in their own field of study and they have their own skill set. To them though a Krone punch down is knockout blow by an old woman.

    3. TRT Silver badge

      Indeed. It was only this morning that I was reflecting on how comes, as an old grey soak, I can recall the giants of software / computing past - Jeff Minter, Peter Molyneaux, David Braben, Ian Bell, Jim Gregory, David Jones, Jez San etc. (met most of them in my time too!)

      Don't really get that now - it's just names of Megacorps with coding teams rather than standout individuals.

      1. MattPi

        The FOSS world has it's rock stars in places. But mostly is things are way more complex and examples of one person going and writing an entire significant piece of software are much more rare. I remember a story that the old Atari game programmers would come in with an idea for a game and essentially bash it out in a day or two. It's unlikely anything novel that can be done in a day isn't already implemented.

    4. Eclectic Man Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Promotion

      Anyone in their 50s still working in a technical job is likely to have reached the top of their pay range in their job grade, with absolutely no chance of promotion, as all the more senior grades are for 'management' (humorously referred to by one Register commentard as "manglement"). They have been passed over, ignored and condescended to by less technically competent, but more managerially astute and ambitious 'grad trainees'. British business simply does not respect technical skills by providing senior technical grades commensurate with senior management grades, but retaining the technical responsibilities.

      They have little to no incentive to refresh their skills, based on the fact that most of the courses they attend rarely translate into actual work. ( I attended an ISO2700 Lead Auditor course in my last employment and after that never did any ISO27001 audits again. Previous to that I attended a CRAMM* course, and post that course never did any more CRAMM work, I attended a Business Management Course, and, well you can guess the rest.)

      As a 'gentleman of leisure' I feel not the slightest incentive to return to working for anyone at a rate of pay where I could persuade myself I was giving 'value for money'.

      *CCTA Risk Analysis and Management Methodology - overtaken by ISO27001.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Promotion

        The other consequence of truncated technical pay scales is that it's assumed that the reward for succeeding in IT (or whatever it might be) will be to be promoted to a managerial scale. This ignores the fact that management is - properly - a skill in it's own right and quite a rare one at that. It makes as much sense as promoting an IT specialist to chemical engineer or vice versa. This is why we have so many abysmal managers that manglement is the most apt term for them.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Promotion

          I've got all manner of management skills and training and certificates in management. Then I had to take another job because I was too highly paid to shift down into the purely technical roles left over when the organisation downsized and merged.

          New post had no other staff to manage. Purely technical support but the pay matched my old technical management post because it was highly specialised. A decade and a half later and I'm still doing the same job. Over the top of the pay grade. No chance to move up and I wouldn't want to as this organisation keeps management and technical skills far too far apart for my liking.

      2. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: Promotion

        A very long time ago I was a Scientific Civil Servant. There were "Special Merit" promotions - Techy people could get to high grades, and still do techy stuff, without having to be "Managers" (many of us were dreadful at management). I believe the highest grade was Senior Principal Scientific Officer (which is currently classified as being between the NATO grades equivalent to Colonel and Brigadier).

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Promotion

          Interesting. In my case it was the opposite. No promotion to PSO without "responsibility" which meant managerial responsibility for which there was little scope. Giving evidence that might help convict someone of murder or clear them of the charge wasn't "responsibility".

          As it was a specialised skill set with little scope outside they thought they could get away with it. Because I had the opportunity to diversify into IT I managed to escape. The effect of someone contriving that was electric if not unprecedented. The response to my resignation was an almost immediate offer of PSO with no board or any other formalities despite having been yet again refused in the previous year. I'd hoped it would at least have made things easier for others but I later heard it didn't.

          1. Tim99 Silver badge

            Re: Promotion

            I was in MoD at the time, when I transferred to HO they were less flexible. This was before each Department was able to impose their own salaries and conditions; but in MoD I was told in an annual assessment that my "Career Grade" was likely to be stuck at PSO or SPSO, as I hadn’t been to "Oxbridge". When I went elsewhere in the public service I was offered the equivalent of SPSO to stay when I left at the age of 40…

    5. MJI Silver badge

      late 50s here

      I am prepared to learn new stuff but we are in the situation that by the time the next generation of software is done I will be retired.

      So I will see my days out on our WIN32 system.

      But I am helping to design the replacement one!

      More the analysis than programmer now

    6. chuckamok

      Company provided training

      Another thing that has changed since the 1990's, at least in the US, is more outsourcing or contract hiring and less company paid training. That has a long term effect on "skills" in a workforce.

  6. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    A dinosur writes...

    I've worked in IT for about 39 years, and it wasn't my first career, so I'm confident I qualify as a dinosaur. As a contractor, I've had 18 jobs over this period, which I think gives me pretty wide experience of the IT employment environment.

    It goes without saying that everybody's always much younger than me. Whether that makes them more flexible or in touch with the latest technologies* is less certain. They're bright and quick, and perhaps they learn faster, but there's no doubt that some are spreading their existing corpus of knowledge very thin. It's depressing and frustrating to see the same mistakes made in one place after another.

    I suppose I have my own prejudices. Software engineering offers few opportunities for career advancement apart from promotion out of engineering into some managerial function. A "senior software engineer" is basically just a better-paid code monkey. I tend to view anyone who has been doing much the same job in the same company for many years - the sort of people IBM gets rid of - as lacking enterprise. But that's a typical contractor attitude.

    * The latest technologies - popular with suicidally adventurous companies.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A dinosur writes...

      'A "senior software engineer" is basically just a better-paid code monkey.'

      Sort of yes, but on the other hand, they are also a much wiser monkey who has learned from youthful mistakes and can write better, more reliable, code, better documentation, better prepare a spec, have a better instinct for diagnosing and analysing problems, etc, etc.

    2. doctor.necessiter

      Re: A dinosur writes...

      Spot on. More or less mirrors my own experience (IT was my 2nd career, 35 yrs in IT, 30 yrs as freelance) & thoughts. I “retired” from IT at 57. Plenty of work around, could have carried on, but just had enough of working in an industry that just wants quick & dirty solutions yesterday that cost no more than 50 pence and no longer values people for their skills, knowledge and experience because they can get all that from their outsource partners even cheaper. Don’t miss it one bit.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: A dinosur writes...

        Don't overlook the ingenuity of the make-do-and-mend brigade!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm older, ex-IBM

    I have a fair few current certifications in current or coming technologies and standards. I learn them for my own satisfaction since most of what I do on the job (now again consulting after being an honest worker for while) is recognise issues I've seen before and say what worked and what doesn't and why. That saves younger or less experienced people a lot of wasted time and money.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ages of IT specialists

    "And yet, when the BCS looked at the ages of the 1.6 million UK-based IT specialists, it found that just 22 per cent of them were over 50 years old."

    Hmmm, how do they know this? If they are basing this on the age cohorts of BCS membership, that's a restricted and self-selecting set, and maybe not representative of actual reality.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Ages of IT specialists

      The MCC looked around the committee room and discovered that women don't exist and so there is no reason to consider admitting them

    2. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: Ages of IT specialists

      Hmmm, how do they know this? If they are basing this on the age cohorts of BCS membership, that's a restricted and self-selecting set, and maybe not representative of actual reality.

      Intriguing though. I first considered BCS membership in the late 80s and discounted it as a bunch of old fuddy duddies with no relevance to my work.

      I wonder who the 50 year old members are.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Ages of IT specialists

        >I wonder who the 50 year old members are.

        The grand-children of the previous committee.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ages of IT specialists

      Good point. At my last network managers meeting we did a straw poll to see how many of us were in the BCS. Out of a room of 40 it was just one (me). All the IT managers, however were in their 40s and 50s.

  9. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Trollface

    Jackie Weaver

    Well it is nice to know that we agree on something, ie that there should be more 'mature' personages in technical jobs. But actually I feel there are lots already, they are just not that noticed. Several of the comments on this article are by people who describe themselves as in that age range.

    I have to admit to not really liking Ms Weaver much, maybe she reminds me too much of my mother, and sister, both of whom often seem to think that, however little they know of a situation, THEY KNOW BEST. But maybe I do her a disservice.

    Troll icon, just in case anyone is tempted to take this post too seriously.

    1. First Light Silver badge

      Re: Jackie Weaver

      Come on - Jackie rocks!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The cynic in me suspects that "not being on board with the latest tech" actually means "not as excited about the latest fad which looks like something we tried 25 years ago". It's still not a mature industry and the same mistakes keep being made. I mean, we're still screwing up in the ways documented by Fred Brooks in the 70s.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      It's a perfect system - all us greybeards understand the maths and physics behind the problem we are working on and the millennials know about docker, build systems and package managers.

      The maths and physics haven't changed much since Legendre wor a lad but the toy technologies change every 3 years - so we just replace the kiddies with each new fashion.

    2. haiku

      Amen to that !

      The difference being that those over-60's amongst us have actually read - and understood - Fred Brooks' book.

  11. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    I'm 54 and still programming. Still keeping up with modern practice but I admit to thinking a lot of it is ill thought out and more of a nuisance than it needs to be. I'm just waiting for the next iteration of .NET (.NET ScrewYou perhaps. Or maybe .NET BecauseWeCan). Or hey maybe the much vaunted 64-bit Visual Studio will indeed be twice as fucking awful.

    I'm still here because I do like programming (except when I'm fighting VS) and I don't want to let my colleagues down. My retirement plans are in place (funded by never being out of full-time employment for more than a week or three over the last thirty years) and just as soon as the irritation level rises to a critical point I'm off.

  12. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Totally unsurprising

    when the BCS looked at the ages of the 1.6 million UK-based IT specialists, it found that just 22 per cent of them were over 50 years old

    Actually, it's surprising that the figure is as high as 22%. Assuming a retirement age of 60, a working life of 40 years, and a flat distribution, there should be 25% for each life decade. But the distribution won't be flat because:

    (a) The population of working IT specialists has increased massively over the past four decades as a consequence of the growth in IT. You can't just recruit equally from the older age cohorts because they simply don't exist.

    (b) A proportion of older IT specialists will have moved to senior managerial jobs. Not many young employees are qualified to make this move.

  13. PeterM42
    Big Brother

    One reason

    One reason for a "shortage" of over 50's in IT is most likely because too many have been outsourced to Indian firms who then dump them to be replaced by young Indians (onshore or offshore). Unlikely to be predominantly to do with a need to re-skill.

  14. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Too close to the best by date

    I work for myself, but I keep an eye on the job market and put in an application from time to time if I see a position that might be a good fit. What I typically find is big tanks full of ageism. Do these companies think that an older worker isn't going to be around for very long? Younger workers tend to hop jobs more often as they don't have kids to support or a home with a mortgage. They may also not have older family members that they want to remain close to so they can be looked after. The downside with an older worker is they won't take abuse as readily. I know I won't. The upside is that I have made or seen or contemplated any number of mistakes already that I'm not going to repeat. I also don't take as much personally which means I don't blow up at colleagues, customers or vendors. I just solve the problem and move on.

    With my qualifications and experience, I should be getting at least a polite rejection letter, but HR departments don't even bother these days. Some years ago I did get an invitation to interview about 6 months after I sent in an application. I replied that they must be joking, I was long past wanting that job.

    I agree with several posters that often times it can be up or out. I may or may not want a management post. It would depend on the job and the company. I may be perfectly happy keeping the same job with a pay rate that keeps up with inflation. I might also be more than willing to take a lesser job than my qualifications would point to if it was interesting work. That can be the case for people looking to switch industries.

  15. aqk
    Big Brother

    Don't Trust anyone under 50.

    I've been working in IT for over 50 years. And even 40+ years ago I saw the writing on the wall, excuse me- on the IBM 1401 line printer: More and more bozos are trying to worm their way into IT.

    Nt because they like it, but because "it's the FUTURE, MAN! Big BUCKS!"

    And slowly, perhaps (too) quickly they climbed aboard the ladder. They didn't givashit about computer stuff, this was a career path!

    So.. I've been retired for 15+ years. But I could still run circles around these idiots and their MBA degrees: "Computers? I just wanna boss people around! And earn a BIG Salary!"

  16. Dadds62

    There is a problem with Management, its been going wrong for over 30years. A belief that you can manage successfully without working your way through the business. This has led to People with NO people management skills, with no knowledge of the business bluffing their way to the top, how did they get there...because the people that hired them are as clueless also!

    There is no interest in training people, because they think that googling the answer is sufficient training.

    IT IS NOT!

    Especially in IT, it is constantly changing and it's impossible to keep abreast of the latest developments(and understand them!) Since the malware writers are well motivated!

    Those of us that have been mistreated by so called managers, now have no self esteem, no motivation and it needs a culture change, you must learn to motivate people! Value them, Train them, Listen to them, Believe them. All the KPI'S, PDR's and other such HR BS will NOT help, stop looking at graphs, figures, performance indicators, they won't help you to value and motivate your workforce!

    WAKE UP, Smell the BS you are shovelling, and change, If not IT is doomed to waste resources chasing the much more motivated hackers!

    Take care all you Honest IT workers, demand better, you deserve it!

    Managers WAKE UP!

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