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IT jobs and older workers: Fresh talent doesn’t have to mean young

Who you gonna call when you need to fill IT jobs at your company? Certainly not Ghostbusters.

Instead, most companies throw the net out into the pool of young technology professionals. The Wall Street Journal reports that workers aged 22 to 44 account for 61 percent of the IT sector. Unfortunately, the available pool of hungry young professionals is insufficient to meet present needs, and as a result, thousands of IT jobs go unfilled.

Which brings us back to the question, “Who you gonna call?” when your company has IT jobs that urgently need to be filled.

The answer? Ghostboomers!

SmartAsset reports that millions of baby boomers are retiring and taking along with them all of the hard-earned IT skills they developed through years of working in the corporate trenches of IT administration and support. If businesses could just tempt a small percentage of these retirees back into the workforce, they could fill many of the IT positions that are currently sitting vacant causing corporate pain. To learn more about this situation and how to leverage skilled boomers into vacant IT jobs, I sat down to talk with Rashmi Bhatnagar, director of talent acquisition at Ensono. Rashmi is a high-impact professional passionate about helping Ensono achieve business objectives and goals. Her focus is on retooling and delivering at the pace of business growth with agile and scalable solutions. You can find Rashmi on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter.

MITCH: What’s the current state of the IT job market in North America? Are there lots of unfilled jobs out there?

RASHMI: Nearly every industry is facing pressure to hire strong talent. With about 7.3 million open positions in the U.S. job market, candidates have plenty of options of where to take their skills. The tech industry is easily feeling the most heat, as IT jobs are some of the most in-demand positions across the board. Frontend engineer, Java developer, data scientist, and cloud engineer rank as some of the top titles companies are looking to hire this year.

MITCH: Why are there still so many unfilled IT jobs?

RASHMI: Demand for IT workers has been high for years and won’t slow down any time soon. Everyone’s been talking about digital transformation for a while now, but most companies are still early in the implementation phase. Developing a digital-first business model doesn’t happen overnight, and it requires a strong team of technologists to keep projects moving forward. From adopting new AI and machine learning solutions to migrating to the cloud, there are countless facets of digital transformation companies are considering, and new ones pop up every few months. This creates immense pressure on businesses to build up their IT departments to carry out multiple projects at once and be ready to take on whatever comes next.

Companies need to think creatively and consider other demographics, like the retiring baby boomers. Older IT workers already have the technical background needed to learn newer technologies, so with a little reskilling, they make the perfect job candidates.

While demand for IT workers is high, talent supply is low. Hiring young professionals who are fresh in their career is the strategy most HR teams take — 61 percent of IT workers are 22 to 44 years old. However, there aren’t enough college students graduating with the IT skills needed to fill the talent pipeline, despite the industry’s attempt to entice more students to pursue a STEM career.

With nearly 10,000 baby boomers turning the retirement age every day, the number of IT employees leaving the workforce is greater than the number entering.

Competing for candidates from a limited talent pool can only get you so far. Companies need to think creatively and consider other demographics, like the retiring baby boomers. Older IT workers already have the technical background needed to learn newer technologies, so with a little reskilling, they make the perfect job candidates.

MITCH: How can older workers who retired from their IT careers be enticed to return to the corporate world?

RASHMI: While many people look forward to the day they don’t have to work anymore, there’s a section of the population who take retirement as an opportunity to make a career move rather than leave the job force altogether. These people make the perfect hiring candidates, but it’s important to understand what they’re looking for in their next job.

Many older workers are open to learning new skills, but they don’t want to start from scratch. It’s important to outline opportunities for retired workers to be trained on new systems, but clearly draw the dots between how the knowledge they already possess will carry over to the IT position you’re hiring for.

Time is another important component. Younger workers who are just starting their careers are hungry to prove themselves and climb the corporate ladder, so they’re willing to put in long hours. Whereas older workers have been grinding for years and are ready for a change of pace. Companies can offer these employees part-time positions, the option to work from home, extra paid time off, and other benefits that provide flexibility for work-life balance.

MITCH: Can older IT workers be retrained with the skills needed for today’s IT modern technology environment? Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

RASHMI: While it’s easy to assume older workers will be resistant to learning new methods for work, they already know how to do, curiosity doesn’t age. Anyone interested in taking an IT role today, regardless of age, is intrigued by how fast technology is evolving, and that makes them strong candidates to learn new skills.

Companies can develop their own training programs for the IT skills they need most and recruit people out of retirement to participate. The intention is to hire the students who complete the program; therefore, creating a steady stream of talent. By creating a job lead, programs run independently by companies can be more enticing for retired workers because it cuts out the grueling job hunt process that usually follows receiving a certification.

While it’s easy to assume older workers will be resistant to learning new methods for work they already know how to do, curiosity doesn’t age.

At Ensono, we created a Mainframe Academy and a Cloud Academy to help our recruiting efforts. We target all types of demographics, including ex-military workers, mothers looking to reenter the workforce, and, of course, people out of retirement. We’ve found older workers make some of the best students, as their professional experience provides a solid foundation to build new skills.

MITCH: Will we ever fill the void in the job pool for corporate IT talent?

RASHMI: Considering worldwide IT spending is expected to surpass $4 trillion in the next two years, I don’t expect the IT job market to change any time soon. As companies continue to weave digital solutions into their operations, there will always be a need for strong IT talent.

MITCH: Rashmi, thanks for taking the time to talk with us about this important subject.

RASHMI: You’re most welcome.

Featured image: Shutterstock

Mitch Tulloch

Mitch Tulloch is Senior Editor of both WServerNews and FitITproNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows Server and cloud technologies. He has written more than a thousand articles and has authored or been series editor for over 50 books for Microsoft Press and other publishers. Mitch has also been a twelve-time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award in the technical category of Cloud and Datacenter Management. He currently runs an IT content development business in Winnipeg, Canada.

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