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Management Strategies

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Careers: Keeping Older Tech Workers On The Job Longer

Nearly a third of all U.S. workers will soon be over the age of 50, and nearing retirement. Combine that with fewer young people entering tech careers, and that leaves a skills and staff gap that older workers can fill.

If you're a Baby Boomer, you may be dreaming about retiring in a few years, but maybe not. Perhaps you'll need to keep working to pay the bills, or maybe you just want to keep busy. Employers, worried about an impending exodus of retiring Boomers, are starting to look into ways of keeping you on the job longer.

Within the next four years, nearly a third of all U.S. workers--including tens of thousands of tech pros--will be over the age of 50, leaving a potential gap of business-tech and vertical industry skills, which could also be worsened on the front end by a shortage of young people entering the technology fields.

Nearly two dozen industry associations, ranging from technology to trucking organizations, have bonded together to create a new Alliance for an Experienced Workforce, a collaborative effort aimed at getting employers to develop strategies of keeping aging American workers viable in the workplace.

"The older worker brings a benefit of knowing how things are done at a company and in an industry, and why," says John Venator, president and CEO of the Computing Technology Industry Association, a member of the new Alliance. CompTIA is encouraging employers to offer older IT workers programs, such as skills certification and training opportunities, to help those pros acquire new tech skills that can complement their decades of industry and business experience, boosting their workforce relevance in the years to come.

In addition to skills training for "hot" IT jobs, including those currently in-demand related to RFID, project management, and security, Venator says employers also need to consider other perks that might entice older tech pros to stay in the workforce, including job-sharing, flex-time, and part-time work.

Quest Diagnostics Inc., a provider of medical testing services, is an employer that's already offering work options that older technology workers often find appealing, says Bruce Mackenzie, Quest director of IT staffing.

That includes telecommuting options, as well as the opportunity to relocate jobs to Quest offices in more favorable climates, like in southern U.S. cities. The company also offers all its tech workers, regardless of age, skills certification and training opportunities, including project management classes that can enhance older tech workers' existing skills base.

Quest's work options have earned the company the status of being an AARP "featured employer," a distinction that means the employer provides programs to recruit and retain "mature" workers, says Emily Allen, director of workforce programs at AARP, which is also a member of the new Alliance.

A 2003 survey of AARP members found that eight out of 10 want or need to work part-time or full-time even after they're eligible for retirement, says Allen. "We want to help bring these people together with the employers who'll need them," she says.

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee is a former editor for InformationWeek. View Full Bio

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