HR · 14 January 2016

Tech sector skills gap set to widen as retirement looms for many

A large proportion of the tech sector talent pool could retire by 2020

A severe skills shortage in the UK’s tech sector is set to worsen according to new research, as tech workers feel increasingly under pressure to retire at state pension age – more than in other sectors.

Conducted by tech recruiter Randstad Technologies, the study found that nearly half of all tech sector workers planned to retire early, far more than the UK average of 35 per cent. Four out of five tech employees feel under pressure to leave work before state pension age – more than in finance, professional services or sales.

As a result, a large proportion of the tech industry’s senior talent pool could leave by 2020, as the baby boomer generation nears retirement age, widening the ever-growing skills gap.

Managing director of Randstad Technologies, Ruth Jacobs, expressed concern at the research’s findings. “There’s already fierce fighting for talent as it is, and early retirements will make it even harder to find the right people for the right jobs.

“The tech industry is facing an expansive experience exodus. The early retirement of the baby-boomers’ generation could lead to a serious skill shortage in the sector,” she said.

Societal pressure for older employees to retire at state pension age is felt more acutely in the tech sector, the research found. More than four out of five tech workers experienced the pressure, with 36 per cent describing the pressure to be “significant”. This compares to 75 per cent of UK employees experiencing similar pressures across all sectors. Just 14 per cent of tech workers report feeling no pressure to retire.

“This generation helped build the technology sector in the 1980s with pioneers like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates leading the way. Companies need this experience if the sector is going to continue to expand,” Jacobs went on to say.

The research advised tech companies to introduce flexible working hours in order to retain older, more experienced employees. Flexible working was cited as the most important factor by 43 per cent of those that choose to remain in work. Older workers would also be encouraged to stay in the tech sector for longer if more mentoring roles were offered – giving them the chance to train more junior staff.

A further 34 per cent of older tech workers said that retraining schemes that taught them how to use the most recent technologies would be the best change employers could implement.

“In a sector which is often unfairly thought of as ageist, encouraging older workers to stay in jobs longer could enhance the entire industry’s reputation.

“Employers need to make sure that working hours fit with the demands placed on senior staff. Having the option to work around other responsibilities like treating health issues would be a big benefit to older workers,” Jacobs added.

Pensions minister Ros Altmann wrote in a recent government report that by 2022, the number of UK workers aged between 50 and the state pension age will have risen by 3.7m to 13.8m in total, whilst the number of workers aged between 16 and 49 will have reduced by 700,000.

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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