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Lack of over 50s in tech points to need for urgent reskilling

Only 22% of those working in IT are over 50 years old, versus 31% of the wider workforce

The relative lack of over-50s working in the UK tech industry suggests there’s a desperate need to upskill older members of the workforce, research by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, claims.

Only 22% of those working in the IT industry are older than 50, versus 31% in the wider workforce, the report claims. Equitable representation would translate to there being an additional 119,000 IT specialists in the UK, and 480,000 in total. 

The picture is getting worse, the BCS claims, because the projection for 2019 was just 95,000 for additional over-50s should there have been equitable representation in the tech industry. 

“The figure for over 50’s working in IT is significantly lower than in other sectors, but government plans (recently outlined in the Queen's Speech) to introduce a Lifetime Skills Guarantee, is a significant step towards addressing the digital skills gap,” said chair of the BCS Society Board, Kathy Farndon. 

“These plans will provide more people with access to the digital skills training they need to continue working in fulfilling careers and will help develop the skills the economy needs to recover from the impact of the pandemic.”

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There continues to be a significant demand for digital skills in all occupations and across all industries, largely as a result of more and more businesses embracing digital technologies in recent years and as a result of the pandemic. 

Almost 70% of employers are struggling to find workers with the right skills, Farndon added, with businesses suffering as a result. Research recently found that the government’s failure to address the skills gap in the last few years is costing £6 billion in lost GDP per year.

There’s also a vast swathe of over-50s with tech skills who are without work, with 13,000 unemployed IT specialists in the UK older than 50 as of last year. This equates with an unemployment rate of 3.4%, versus 2.2% for workers aged between 16 and 49. 

A previous Microsoft report found that nearly three-quarters of people over the age of 45 are willing to invest time in learning digital skills. The research found that 44% are keen to pursue a new career, while 23% said they would consider switching to a tech role. 

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