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Veteran tech workers see themselves locked out of job market

Grant Gross | May 7, 2013
IT workers with 15 or more years of experience say they're passed over for employment

Wade and many other out-of-work IT veterans say it's difficult to compete with lower cost foreign labor. "Companies mostly just want cheap workers, or they want someone that has already done the exact job they are hiring for," he said.

Many companies post very specific job requirements in an effort to weed out veteran workers, said Wade and other experienced IT workers. Veteran workers can train themselves in new programming languages or tools, but that's no guarantee of a job, they say.

"Some areas are so new, like cloud stuff, very few people have any experience in that," Wade said. "So whether they hire me, or a new citizen grad, or bring in an H-1B visa, they will have to train them all."

Veteran IT workers may have a harder time finding jobs, especially if they need employer training, said Melisa Bockrath, vice president and group leader for the IT unit of Kelly Services. "You can take a kid out of college who has some good core technical skills ... and you can put the same amount of training in and get them productive to your specific application, and their wage base is a lot lower" than someone with 15 or 20 years of experience in IT, she said.

Wade's story echoes those from other veteran IT workers.

John Donaldson, a 51-year-old software developer out of work since October, has been keeping up with Hadoop and other hot skills, but he's getting no job offers. Donaldson also has experience with SQL, Java programming and data modeling, other supposedly in-demand skills.

"In the software development field, you either keep abreast of what's current, or you die," he said. "I've got the chops, very experienced and totally qualified."

Many companies looking for IT workers are "overly picky," allowing them to pass over veteran workers with similar, but not the exact experience, they want, said Donaldson, from Oakland, California. "Any halfway decent software developer can jump right into any of those languages," he said.

Bea Dewing has long-term experience in data modeling, one of the IT skills that's supposed to be hot. She has worked in the tech industry since 1986, as a programmer, systems analyst, database designer and project manager, and she's been out of work since December.

"I have been doing this type of work since I got my B.S in computer science ... in 1986," she said by email. "I was just turned down for a job after having a very successful meeting with the data management team at a large corporation. I was assured by my recruiter that they would make an offer within a week. Someone came in with a cheaper person, so that job is gone."


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