Employers Lament Age Gap in Engineering Candidates

Are engineers in the United States either too young or too old?

In trying to hire application developers for the semiconductor industry, Lance Jones, vice president of technology at Evans Analytical Group in Sunnyvale, Calif., decided the “sweet spot” for senior-position experience was five to 10 years.

Age GapBut the applications the company received were largely from foreign students looking for a visa sponsor, or senior-level engineers with more than 20 years of experience. In other hiring efforts, the results have been much the same.

“It could just be that we have heard for so long that everything is moving to Asia, that it has discouraged many of our young people from studying engineering. This leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Jones writes at EE Times. “CEOs complain about lack of talent, and at the same time state that they are going to Asia. Where is the incentive for the younger generation?”

Jones concedes that test and applications development might not be the sexiest jobs around, but asks, “who will be there to pick up the slack once us grey hairs leave?” Still, Jones doesn’t go into why more experienced candidates wouldn’t be ideal for the positions in his company.

The federal government, for one, has a similar problem: More than half of its IT workers are 45 to 59 years old.

Though older tech workers often say that recruiters never call back once they see their age, Luther Jackson, a program manager and researcher at the Sunnyvale-based employment and training agency NOVA, urges candidates to learn more about social networking and get involved in user groups and meetups.

For older workers concerned about keeping their jobs, career counselor J.T. O’Donnell of CAREEREALISM.com advises focusing on being the one who solves problems for the management team.

73 Responses to “Employers Lament Age Gap in Engineering Candidates”

  1. Fred Bosick

    So, why should the experience “sweet spot” be 5-10 years? Doesn’t it make sense to get the maximum experience possible? Or is it really a *salary* sweet spot sought after? Also, it’s more than an age gap; it’s a cliff! The young applicants aren’t too young, they have no experience at all! And their motivation isn’t a salary or career, but to immigrate.

    It’s not that we’ve “heard”, but that we’ve “watched” the jobs go away! Just go to a tech campus on the West Coast(and other places), if anyone will let you in…..

    The technical professionals exist. They’re just huddling in their homes eating away their assets because they lost their jobs and can’t find another. The young would be students have said, “screw this noise”, and major in anything but. They see the sad eyes of their parents, relatives and neighbors who are running out of choices and money.

    The grey beards *are* solving problems, or at least trying to, But the young “genius” executives or incompetent and paranoid middle managers peddling their ITSM, or ITIL, don’t wanna hear it. The old guys and gals are told, “we’re going to invent the next facebook”, or “just follow the process” no matter how stupid it is(my current problem).

    Good ole’ Lance and his golfing buddies crapped their own bed.

    “But the MBA book said this is all we gotta do to advance our careers and make the big bux. The MBA book wouldn’t lie! Could it?”

    • Right on.

      When there are no entry level positions after borrowing for an engineering or science degree and the kids see mom and dad dumped in the trash at age 45, what sane person would study STEM disciplines.

      I could provide qualified candidates for almost any discipline you need, but they are over 50 and have been looking for a while. I’m sure more H1B’s will solve everything….

    • The MBA’s, all keen on emulating the horrid GE personnel practices, have instituted ‘stacked ranking’ or forced bell-curve ranking, where a percentage, typically 10%, of the population MUST be found to be underperformers. When managers, who by the way need to be at least a little sociopathic (no concience) to exist in this environment, are forced to decide who gets a pass and who gets dumped on. Funny how the greybeards are easy picks as ‘under-performers’. The whole system stinks. Deming and Drucker are spinning in their graves.

    • You hit the nail on the head. I am 57 and very good in my area of technology ! After getting screwed several times by my old company I decided to go the contractor route. I keep my rate high and don’t entertain work for less. I have a history of successful projects because anyone that is smart enough to pay my rate is smart enough to let me do my job. The others who are looking for cheap labor will be out of business soon enough .. They missed that lesson in MBA school. Mean while I either work 1/2 as such and make the same money I use to or work all the time and make twice as much. All overtime is paid!

      • Failed project after failed project is all I hear from companies going after the foreign IT work force. I once took a class in French but that did not make me a great artist!!! If that statement was over your head, let me try this – There ain’t no more gold in them hills! If you are a US IT work just relax reality is just right around the corner.

  2. In addition to the bad propaganda that the media is giving to the STEM professionals, plus the difficulty of the disciplines; the reason could be that the younger American engineers with 5-10 years experience have already been employed.
    Companies do not want to pay bigger salaries demanded by the 20+ engineers.
    Bias against older employees was built on the assumption that they were not so fast as the younger ones.
    Here productivity is being confused with speed, and efficiency is given a lot more value than effectiveness.

    • How about the management team taking the slack? Management and HR people are so dumb that they don’t see 10 years down the road – never did and never will. There will be no engineers here in the USA period and thanks to the stupidity of management and HR decisions. How about asking congress to approve a few million H1 -B and L1 visas for foreigners to solve their problems?

      • Back in the mid 90’s Microsoft was full tilt shipping development tools and promoting computer careers to pre college kids in India. Nearly 2 decades later, here we are. One might argue that their long term planning was perfect. But only from a global perspective.

          • Who told you that the 20+ engineers demand high salaries?
            No, I don’t. It is just age discrimination. I am willing to work for lower then company is willing to pay and I still not being called back.

          • This is a catch-22.
            If you ask for a lower salary, then a company can perceive that you don’t believe in your skills. If you ask for a higher salary, then the company expects you to be worth their investment, if they’re even willing to pay for a higher level of skill.

    • Is not about being fast, it is about solving problems and that requires knowledge based on experience. I was once a young engineer with only the theory learned in college; however, in those days companies were more matured and were willing to give recent grads a chance to build on experience. Also, companies did train engineers and gave them the security clearance if needed; now, companies are asking for engineers WITH security clearance and my question is: How can they get a security clearance with no job?

      In science, speed is based on experience which is directly correlated to age…the older, the more experienced and hence the most likely to solve problems.

  3. Outsourcing pressure on entry level positions was not a perception, but a very real fact. It’s the primary reason I did not steer my now 20 something son into my field. Arbitrary decisions like the one Lance Jones made that select for engineers with 5 to 10 years experience create his own problem. Are we athletes or models that have a 5 year career expectancy?

    An engineer with 25 years experience can tell you the same 10 ways to solve a problem that the 25 year old recent graduate can. Unlike the grad, the experienced engineer can show you why 8 of those ways won’t work.

    As you get more experience, you make fewer and fewer mistakes. Your work gets more precise, your estimation better, your ability to keep projects on track tighter. The experienced candidate may have had more time to work all areas of the system development lifecycle.

  4. TechRookie

    Considering the time frame one would have had to have graduated between 2004 and 2009 to meet that criteria. On top of that they would have needed to land qualified employment immediately. These years can be adjusted for internships, part time work during school, or potential career level experience before school if considering an older applicant.

    Now what years fall into that range? Also, what was going on during those years?

    The massive economic collapse was centered in the time frame that would allow a fresh grad to start a job and gain these 5-10 years experience by 2014.

    I think it may be less about immigrant competition and more so about the freshest of employees getting laid off circa 2007-8 and on. Also coming into the job market over the past 7 or so years has been very rough for inexperience graduates.

    I would venture to say it isn’t that there are few US citizen graduates in these fields, its that the experience desired places graduates graduating at the height of the crash and recession. Few jobs, frequent layoffs, and underemployment do not add up to 5-10 years experience for these people.

    Basically, there is the older generation and those lucky enough to have graduated and gained qualified employment before the crash, then there is everyone else who graduated during the recessionary period to high unemployment rates and underemployment rates. Id venture to bet that for as long as the recession lasted or is lasting we will begin this year with a dry spell of anyone in any field having 5-10 years experience. What will be found are those with 10+ and those with <5.

    It's really a simple concept. Sure the employers have been off-shoring entry level development and engineering jobs for a while now and that can add to it too.

    Every one of these types of articles I read never considers the buffer between when students select a major, complete the major, land entry level gigs, and finally have the experience to tell prospective students of their trials and tribulations. Hell even the first few years in the industry may not be directly applicable to a listing requiring 5-10 years engineering experience.

    Also we must consider the market when these students were entering college possibly 14 years ago. Computer Science was the degree and on occasion one could find Computer Engineering. It wasn't until the mid 2000s that universities began diversifying the CS curriculum. Around the year 2000 was the tail end of the dot com bubble burst and IT fields could be entered with a simple A+ certification and some returns counter experience at Best Buy or CompUSA. That alone could have swayed some prospective individuals from entering a degree program that would qualify them for software engineering and then today afford them 5-10 years experience.

    I myself was not a traditional student. I graduated high school in 2000 and entered a local university's engineering program. Dropped out after a year and a half and began working labor trades. I got fed up with labor and put myself back into school while working full time. Graduated CS focusing in app development and minor in business dev fall 2010. It took me 2 years to find a job in the IT industry. I'm lucky to be developing in my role but it is not with a popular industry standard language. I've got almost 2 years experience that would lightly qualify for another more progressive development role or for a role more towards the network admin side of things as my position has straddled both worlds. I consider myself lucky as this job pays well enough and offers benefits. However 5-10 years experience I do not have. If I were to look at high level develpment positions Id probably be at least another 5-10 away form this point.

    So even if I stuck with school from the beginning I would have graduated somewhere in 2006 with a bachelors in engineering (maybe EE). I may have landed a job that year but maybe not who knows? If I could have kept that gig (highly unlikely given the economic conditions starting 2007) I may have 7 or so years experience by now assuming I didn't get laid off and suffered long term unemployment as a result of the crash and recession.

    Now I face a whole new set of challenges. Compared to my once peers I am far behind in career (the fault is mine dropping out so long ago). However I'm employed yet looking at the next step and finding the only listed opportunities available are for individuals with 5-10 years experience. The other characteristic job listing is for the "junior" developer but they require experience with C/C++, Java, C#, JavaScript, PHP, ASP, JSP, MySQL, HTML5/CSS3, Ruby, Python, and etc. all lumped together. Like anyone who would be considered "junior" has experience in all of that. Of course its possible given the trends in certain education paths. Where I may, in conversation, express an interest in improving my skills coding in XYZ language the younger person I am speaking with recalls the good ole days of working with that language in high school and how dumb it was. Its possible that someone these days has learned Java or any other various scripting language in a formal classroom setting before college, exercised that knowledge with small web projects and contracts during college, at the same time studying more complex and technical subjects. Before graduating with a combination of part time work, small freelance contracts, internships, and general study can fudge 2-3 years the day after they receive their diplomas.

    I think the 5-10 year sweet spot is merely a salary:capability convergence. 10+ and the salary requirement is too high, <5 and the competence is just not there. I find my real issue being in the middle of it is that there isn't a sufficient gradient of positions available. True entry level doesn't exist, <5 is rare and competition is numerous and widely ranged in competency, next up is 5-10 which I wont qualify for for a long time, and then the gravestone of 10+ where despite your enormous experience, capability, and so on the salary requirements are just too high to find employment (not that those salary reqs are undeserved).

    • “10+ and the salary requirement is too high,…”

      Seems to me that a prospective employer could at least ASK what the person with 10+ years experience is seeking. Some of them might be in for a pleasant surprise.

      According to a few of my colleagues at other firms, I was terribly underpaid at where I worked at prior to 2009, but I was pretty happy with the pay, as I had no bills or financial obligations, either short or long-term. I was able to make a decent living and save up a nice sum that is now helping me along through my current situation of being underemployed. If I were offered a position at another outfit at the same rate of pay I was making in 2008, I’d take it with no complaints.

  5. DotKoolAid

    I think part of it is as well that we all get sick of the start up culture. You get married, have kids, and the employers want 21 year old schedules with sweet spot or better experience. But that experience has told them that the sweat shop approach to IT and engineering (some start ups get it right, but impossible to know before hand) where you work longer and longer under chaotic but “cool” conditions rather than smarter isn’t a long term viable career or life path. We shift out.

  6. >”“sweet spot” for senior-position experience was five to 10 years”
    >”Jones doesn’t go into why more experienced candidates wouldn’t be ideal”

    Seems clear to me…they want all the experience but are not willing to pay for it so they look for a little experience and hope it gets them through, but I think that it should be in the range of 10-20 years if they want things to work…

    >For older workers concerned about keeping their jobs, career counselor J.T. O’Donnell of CAREEREALISM.com advises focusing on being the one who solves problems for the management team.
    I’ve found that most companies don’t really care about solving problems; they care about appeasing management so you need to learn to be very political if you’re an older tech worker.

    On the flip side, I’ve seen that many of the 15+ers really don’t understand the current movement of how to build apps that work on phones/tablets. They’re so used to larger and larger screens and older technology that they can’t conceptualize how to shrink down with new tools; and the youngers know ONLY this and can’t conceptualize how to deal with large amounts of data or solve problems. Oddly, those of us who worked in the early 80s (on DOS) had those limitations and SOME of us actually know how to produce the best of both worlds: great products with limited space. And for those of us who actually followed the trends, we know many of the new QUALITY tools–although not many of the software-of-the-month releases (Too bad I’m not a salesman and can’t convince employers just how talented I am!)

  7. David Evans

    No workers with 5-10 years of experience? I wonder why?

    5 years ago = 2009, ground zero for the economic crisis. Between 2007-present, almost every employer in the United States has been saying “We only want engineers with 5-10 years of experience”. I know this because this has been the bane of my life.

    Using this knowledge, let’s consider what happens to two employees, one with 5 years of experience in 2007, and one with 4 years.

    The employee with 5 years of experience meets the requirements, so by now (2014) he/she has 5+7 = 12 years of experience. Thus, they no longer have between 5-10 years of experience.

    The employee with 4 years of experience DIDN’T meet the requirements, was never hired and so, by now (2014) they have 4+0 = 4 years of experience. Thus, they never acquired 5-10 years of experience and never moved on.

    So, most employees either have less than 5 years of experience, or more than 10. QED

    These are, of course, the limits. If you had zero years of experience in 2007, you might just have zero years of experience today (along with all the other recent graduates that continue to enter the job pool) and if you had 10 years of experience back in 2007, you now might have 17… if they haven’t fired you on account of age discrimination.

    So, as you can see, this isn’t some grand mystery, it’s simple mathematics. Employers should have been hiring candidates from all ages throughout the economic crisis. However, even today, they’re still not hiring candidates with less than 5 years of experience, so the problem isn’t going to get better, it’s only going to get worse.

    It’s sad really. I’ve watched my entire generation devastated by computer filtered resumes and a ladder without bottom rungs. Those who played by the rules and tried to be good kids only got stabbed in the back by their own people. It hurts, and it feels personal.

    On another note, though, I for one relate better to older programmers than younger ones. I’d rather have a senior developer over me that was a baby boomer than a gen-xer. Boomers tend to have a deeper understanding of mathematics and remember incredible stories about the dawn of software engineering (even back to punch cards with hand written code solutions). It also just ‘feels right’ socially – as though it were hardwired into my humanity to seek out the tribal elders, the sages, of my field. It’s just human. It’s as if I know, I deeply need them… as if companies NEED to hire young engineers before the older ones leave (and time is short) – otherwise, we’ll never be able to mature the way we need to in our skills or as human beings.

    • I agree that the economy, computer filtered resumes, and other such factors are behind this. I graduated in 2002 with a degree in computer science. I sent out hundreds of resumes from graduation to when I was finally hired into a *receptionist* position 9 months later. Any position relevant to my degree that I would try to follow up on to get an interview was met with “I’m sorry, we had hundreds of applicants this week alone. If we are interested we will call you back.” I couldn’t even find an internship. All the companies were cutting back. Candidates with experience moved down into positions that would have previously open to graduates as the dot com bubble burst. Meanwhile I worked as diligently as possible to pay my student loans on a receptionist wage and find a way to move into a position that would use my degree. As a result of several years of working in such positions, potential employers would see my resume as undesirable. My “window” of entry was missed. I still work such jobs, do not use my degree (though still trying to pay on it), and to this day can’t find a job in my field.

      The same story happened to practically everyone in our age bracket. We have friends that have degrees in Civil Engineering, Physics, Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering, Mathematics, etc, and all of them are working in blue collar jobs, that do not use their degrees, because they graduated after the bubble. Subsequently, due to the cost of getting that degree they have gone through bankruptcy and other hardships. Many are facing such hardships for a second round now. Those friends a few years ahead were able to gain experience and were not effected.

      Anyone with eyes can see what is happening. This generation wants to contribute at their full potential. But how things are they aren’t allowed, and it’s not going to get better as they age. It’s another bubble waiting to happen.

  8. Soon this issue will take on another complication: The smarter but older workers that planned for retirement will retire and leave only those older workers that were too dumb to plan for retirement as the only applicants.
    There is no correlation between the ability to plan for one’s retirement and their engineering ability, but I would argue that there are cross-over traits that employers find valuable in their employees.
    One final comment. Age discrimination is alive and well and is practiced by most companies – especially larger ones – and although illegal, the law is unenforceable. No one gets laid off for being “Too Old” – it is always for “Business Need” or some other legally acceptable excuse. The ironic fact here is that many of these laid-off older workers will be forced to take Social Security early (at 62 instead of 66 or 70), thereby exacerbating the SSA funding forecast for the age-discriminating young managers’ own retirement plans.

  9. Jermy Hudson

    I have 5 years of very good experience in I.T. The interview responses I receive are I am either over qualified or there is a better candidate. Been going on four years now. As my skills become more and more dated, I apply for lessor positions more often. This puts me in more overqualified situations. I even had one recruiter get angry when I was serious about taking a 3 month entry level position requiring I relocate. I was actually excited about working for that company and future opportunities there.
    This situation puts me in a terrible spot. The only opportunity to present itself I took in 2012 was a start-up. I relocated from Arizona to Pennsylvania. In 3 months, My job description went from Network designer to low voltage cabler, my pay then went from hourly, to salary, (Illegal under federal guidelines) to avoid overtime. Then my salaried pay was getting docked for every reason by the minute. So I quit there and have been doing Autobody work since.

  10. I tell you where those IT pro’s with middle of the pack experiece are at…..OTHER FIELDS! That’s because in the past 10 years have been hit with the need for experience right from day 1, prior to that it was academic credentials that got you hired. Now the opposite is true (generally speaking). The college degree’s are nothing more than the first obstacle to getting a job, the experience is the main point in hiring 10 years ago to today. Those seeking IT jobs 10 years ago gave up after not getting the jobs requiring extensive experience. I gave up and went into sales then marketing. At least those fields don’t require 10 years experience, a grad degree and a skill set isn’t a mile long.

  11. oregon111

    employers have no problem offshoring jobs to india and using indian visa-holders to do development…

    but then they complain that they cannot find qualified people in america…

    when it used to be just cobol and c, lots of people knew those 2 things, but now it is an entire alphabet of languages and tools and technologies and hardware…

    employers will ALWAYS train the visa no-skill crowd, but will NEVER train americans with lot of experience who need to learn a new skill

    where will be the landing point in all of this chaos???

    I think that IF offshoring IT development worked – it would have all happend by now.
    It only ‘works’ if Indian visa holders are here in the US, and then it works crappy at best.

    THE ANSWER is for managers and companies to STOP acting like high school bullies and give IT pros a LITTLE RESPECT!

    Stop the nazi tactics like ‘you better update your resume’ and ‘you need to hit the ground running’ … ARE YOU KIDDIN ME!!!

    Just EXACTLY how many of you mgt types can hit the ground running and develop web apps? With a database. In MVC format. Using design patterns. And build a professional looking home page??? I’m sure you can use a shopping cart to order x-mas presents, but can you build one?

    Its time to STOP THE ARROGANCE and start respecting engineers – they are smarter than you and can do things you will NEVER be able to do.

    Once you people settle down and get off your high horse, then start interviewing and look for candidates who have most, not all, of your items on your list. Hire them and you will be pleasantly suprised at how fast they pick up that one or two last skills.

  12. Bob Davis

    Employers openly discriminate against age and the “Right to Work” laws in states allow them to do so. Skill levels and experience have little to do with it. Health benefits have a lot to do with it. Personally, I have trouble differentiating between providing health benefits for an individual in their 30s with a family and a “Grey Hair” as described earlier in another post. Actually, when a Grey Hairs’ health fails and they cannot work anymore, they receive a laid off with no explanation, because the “Right to Work” laws allow it and the company is free.

  13. The people complaining about these jobs being off-shored certainly have the right to. However in my brief experience as an IT recruiter I’ve witnessed multiple companies starting to bring those jobs back on shore.

    I would fall into that age-gap. I am neither too old or too young. And to one who mentioned “shouldn’t more experience be better?” at the very top… no, it isn’t… and it has nothing to do with pay. One of the people whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing is a 22 year old software engineer who promoted at a major financial institution as a manager after a 3 month internship.. why? Because he was that good. He quit because his manager was taking credit for his work. He did code reviews for his team, and he said the code reviews were actually him re-writing the majority of it.

    Now he’s working two full-time positions at the same time… one remote and the other not remote… he’s equally impressing each employer. The issue is NOT the “years of experience.”

    So what is the issue? Why is there an age gap? Here’s why:

    -K-12 Education when I grew up. I knew nothing of programming. I used AOL IM on a dial-up connection beginning when I was in middle school. I truly didn’t hear anything of writing code until at least college… and even then I might be making that up. It simply is not taught… there’s no way for someone to become interested in it if you’re never exposed to it. Now I could have asked questions about how everything worked… but my interests were elsewhere at that stage in my life. Even now, there is not much glorification of the field except for, a lot of time, “the money you can make.” I kick myself now for not being drawn to it years ago. The problems that you can solve with understanding programming, systems, etc… is unbelievable.

  14. Mike Patrick

    I wish people would stop making the extreamly poor decisions of corporate management sound like common sense decisions that they just had to make. Those decisions were made out of greed and incompetense. Our current crisys is a self fufilling prophecy. Corporations wanted profits without paying for investment in their own employees and futures. “Let someone else train them and then we will just steal them away for cheap” has cost us a generation of competent engineers with the necessary experience because those Management lemmings all had the same ideaat the same time. Now there are no engineers with the required experience and no corporations willing to train them to meet their needs. Undoubetedly the corporate mindset will be to double down on their own stupidity and import even more engineers from overseas countrys with more common sense and truely screw the future of the United States.

  15. Sean Landis

    As I am becoming one of the “Grey Beards,” I am hoping that perceptions will change to match reality. The reality is that: workers of all types are staying productive longer; that retirement will be later in people’s careers; that older workers have a wealth of experience that can help young companies avoid many of the traps that can ruin them; and most importantly, that most IT workers stay with a company for just a few years anyway. When considering a 55 year old worker vs. a 25 to 30 year old worker, The likelihood of the younger worker leaving earlier is higher. Yes, you’ll probably pay more for the 55 year old, but if s/he is a solid candidate, you will be getting your money’s worth.

    I am deeply involved in hiring and we figure about 98% of all IT candidates are not what we are looking for. I would expect that number to be comparable for older workers too. Just because someone has 5, 10, 20, 30, or more years of experience, does not mean they were good years.

    I expect that the market will begin to gain a respect for the grey beards and they value they bring, once companies come to the realization that tech workers are not commodities.

  16. I have 22 years experience as an Electronic Technician Component level troubleshooter, would be an excellent R&D Technician with all my hands on experience. All the jobs I sent resumes to require a security CLEARANCE, possibly will rectify this situation with in the next month!

  17. Looking for IT developer with experience in C/C++, Java, C#, JavaScript, PHP, ASP, JSP, MySQL, HTML5/CSS3, Ruby, Python, SAP, SAS, XML, RUP, SCRUM, J2EE, .NET, Big data, Business intelligence, Informica, etc. is like looking for All-In-One doctor who is dermatologist, cardiologist, gynecologist, optomologist, gastroenterologist, endocrinologist etc. Good luck.

    • The IT industry is highly unregulated and it scares me, because a lot of things that could get wrong depending on computers and software and a tsunami of data is at the gate with the arrival of the Internet of things.
      The amount of knowledge to handle non-trivial IT projects is enormous. I find that most of the web developers do not know databases enough or they do not know that field at all. Some of web developers show an open disgust to the Object Oriented theory, add the short vision of some agile projects there and you will have the recipe for a catastrophe.
      The problem is that you cannot possibly master all the knowledge. We are asking an orthopedist to operate your heart, which could be OK in a case of emergency, but it would be really stupid for any other given day.

    • It appears as though you are exaggerating, but I see the point. That being said, job descriptions (and the managers that write them) that have a laundry list of “requirements” rarely actually require everything. The overall argument is entirely too complex to simplify to this explanation, or even my arguments below… too many different factors.

      Your analogy is also a bit off. All doctors are trained in all fields (or at least most) by medical schools and residency programs. A pediatrician has more than likely completed rotations in the cardiac wing of a hospital. The know how to identify an arrhythmia and read and EKG. They have assisted in various types of surgery, and have to understand every system in the human body.

      I am not stating this based on facts, but rather my own assumptions… we all know what that means, but here goes. Med Schools more than likely stay up-to-date with best medical practices from best health practices, ways to diagnose and best treatments. All doctors are required to stay up-to-date with their license… they have to take tests regularly in order to earn/keep that license.

      Granted, while medical knowledge is probably at this point advancing at a slower pace than technology, it should be in the interests of those in the field to stay up-to-date. I certainly am not posing the idea that ALL IT people reach a certain age and get lazy and stop learning. Nor am I proposing that all doctor’s are great doctors. I am merely proposing that there is a percentage of the population that does “get comfortable.”

      One more difference. If you make a mistake as a doctor, you end up in court and lose your licence. Along with that goes the only profession you’ve ever known.

      If you make a mistake as a IT engineer, you’re more than likely given a second chance (or at worst lose your job for the time being), wouldn’t end up in court, and ultimately can move on to something new within the same line of work.

      • As long as doctors don’t screw up really badly, and they tend to cover for each other, they have a career for life, not subject to whims of management. And they generally make a ton of money while they are at it. Can you say the same for IT developers or engineers in general? Nope. No way. Companies have little incentive anymore to provide any training and it is damned near impossible to get up to speed on the latest SW language or technology if you aren’t using it in your job. When the technology changes the company chucks the existing FTE’s (not even considered people anymore, just acronyms) and reloads with new bodies.

      • It’s not exaggeration. I’ve seen several software, engineering and IT positions that require years of experience with 15-20 different technologies–and that’s today. Software development for manufacturing, automotive and aircraft are the worst offenders.

        Sure a large manufacturing system might make use of tens if not hundreds of different languages, PLCs, communications protocols, etc. But who has “5 year of experience with PROFIBUS” when it takes a week to set up? It’s like asking a candidate to have “5 years of experience installing MS Windows.” You just do it, and it’s done.

        Another thing that employers don’t consider– particularly on the electrical, aerospace and mechanical engineering side (where I am), is that once you are an “expert” at something, you are often promoted to a position where you no longer work directly with the technology. After about five years working in the same role as an expert, many engineers will move on to systems roles, management, or other things out of boredom or to advance in their careers.

  18. I’ve been in technology for 40 years. In technology, you spend more time in learning than any other profession. Few companies invest in people. It is easier and cheaper to layoff a team when a project is done and then start up a new team when they are ready to move on. Of course, then they lament about poor performance. Middle Management wants to reduce costs, and they hire junior people and people who want a green card. Then they lament about poor performance. Senior Management also looks at cost, not value. They see rates overseas are lower than domestic rates, and they ship everything off-shore. They readily outsource their core competence, and then they lament about poor performance.

    Technologists are expendable, just as manufacturing workers are expendable.

    I laugh at the concept of STEM, and that there should be push to get more US students into technology. The reason there is a shortage (if there is one) is that once a student graduates, they can look forward to being treated like dirt.

    When my children were deciding on what field to pursue in college, I told them that I would not contribute a dollar to their education if they went into technology.

    The situation is so sad. The US was once a leader in technology. Now we are a leader in profits, a leader in out-sourcing, and quickly loosing our core competence and standard of living. As long as a small group of people can get richer and richer, buy legislators, and create a disposable society, we should all be content. Who needs a job? Who needs health insurance? Who needs Social Security? Who needs a living wage?

    • oregon111

      what you just described is the fact that engineers are now treated just like any other employee – like a disposable dish rag – its all about ROI for investors – humans have NO value – never did – never will under capitalism – you all should know that

  19. P. Ferris

    I can attest to the horrid GE personnel practices of ‘stacked ranking’ or forced bell-curve ranking, where a percentage, typically 10%, of the population MUST be found to be underperformers.
    My incompetent manager even admitted it at my yearly review even though I dedicated 10+ hours a day to the job and self-taught myself on tasks which resulted in higher and more efficient performance than others on the “preferred” list. He even stated I was doing better than others but since I was the last in, I would be the first out. My experience told me this guy was out of touch and in the majority of managers that do what is right for them but not the company.

  20. Robert Leigh

    After being laid off at 54 and going through some additional training, I spent three years looking for a job. Finally I got a business license and work 10 to 15 hours a week doing consulting… if I’m lucky. Beats the “welcome to Wal-Mart, have a nice day” thing. Pays better too.

  21. Danny Hernandez

    The problem is not lack of applicants, the problem is lack of “qualified” applicants. Everything these engineers are doing now is all experienced based and there’s really no reason to get an education except for the grey hairs thinking that somehow says you have experience. As soon as you enter a job in engineering, the first thing you do is ignore all you learned in school. Someone once said, “I’m not saying there’s no value in higher education, I’m only saying it comes at the expense of experience”. A lot of the things we need people to do cannot be learned in a school, because nothing is set in stone anymore. Welcome to the world of technology.

  22. Dallas Staffing Agencies

    Education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics needs to be strengthened. Our colleges and universities are not graduating enough students with strong science degrees, computer science or otherwise. Graduates with the right kinds of backgrounds for data scientist – computer science, statistics, machine learning – are coming out of the universities, but they are not coming out in sufficient numbers. As a result, firms are struggling to hire full-time or contract staff for IT and engineering positions. In working with IT staffing agencies, I know it’s important to know their true professional goals. Help them achieve their growth goals and help them establish a career growth path.

    • You don’t appear to have read the other postings. Colleges aren’t graduating STEM grads, because students are choosing other majors based on how they see STEM grads treated. Our colleges are graduating students with STEM degrees, they just happen to be foreign students here on Visas. As a college teacher, my wife bemoans the fact that the colleges including community colleges are preferentially admitting foreign students because they have to pay more. More foreign students means more income for the college.

      My son graduated with a double major keyed toward biotech. He looked at the market and went to law school rather than getting an advanced degree in biology, chemistry or another technical field. At the time he chose well and has a good job, but even entry level legal work is being outsourced now. If we have no jobs for recent grads, where are we supposed to get the batch of people with 5-10 years experience 5-10 years from now.

      There is no shortage of qualified workers. There is a shortage of cheap labor who will take whatever management feels like paying them.

    • That’s BS and you should know it. You drank the STEM kool-aid. We don’t need more Colleges cranking out STEM degrees like sausages. Corporate America treats those graduates like commodities. They are absolutely not assured lifetime employment in their so-called careers. When you can correct that situation then we can talk about the increasingly greedy college industry where expenses have outrun inflation for many years now and where debt ridden graduates are like indentured servants trying to pay off said debt. Colleges aren’t the solution, they are a big part of the problem.

      • I truly can’t tell if you are trolling or your serious. Is it sickening that colleges are more worried about profits than true education? Yes. Do you need a college education to be successful? No. Either “education” or healthcare is the next bubble to burst.

        That being said, you sicken me with your “America treats those people like commodities” comment. You want change? Take some gosh darned initiative. Stop blaming America, or the government, or the corporations. Create your own opportunity to improve things. It’s nobodies “job” to fix things by everyone is too comfortable with how things are to do more than talk about it.

        I mentioned a 22 year old who was doing code reviews at a major financial institution now working two different full time jobs simultaneously. He didn’t graduate college. Kid was fen army flunking out before he quit. But guess what, he taught himself. There’s this crazy thing called the internet that has all of this information on it….

        No one is assured lifetime employment. You’re lucky to have been born into a country that this is your complaint. I’m sure you also think you’re not being paid enough. I’m not agreeing nor disagreeing about pay, but NO ONE IS assured lifetime employment for being average. I am truly appalled by the thought of a four-year degree ensuring someone being employeed the rest of their life. “I earned a piece of paper 20 years ago,” he says, ” I deserve to be taken care of for life.”

        Do me a favor. Don’t vote in the next election. Try running for office. You sound crazy enough to be in congress.

        • I totally agree with you. A graduate engineer should be employed for no more than 10 years and then discarded.

          Who’s crazier? You or me? And by the way, who decides whether an engineer is deserving of further employment? Management. And who decides that they are deserving of their jobs. I don’t hear you commenting on the ‘stacked ranking’ abuses that I’ve mentioned. Is that also your idea of an equitable and desirable personnel policy? If so, where else in the world do they practice that? I’d like to know.

          • And by lifetime employment, I don’t mean at the same employer. Maybe I should have said a career that yeah, spans a useful working lifetime. You know, like a doctor, dentist, lawyer, chiropractor, electrician, plumber — that sort of thing. And I’m not talking about people who chose the wrong career. I am talking about someone who got discarded after almost 30 productive years at one employer … because they wanted to outsource what I did, and label it a ‘non-core competency’ … that I was extremely competent at. Walk a mile in my shoes, I think they say.

    • That because its not worth sending money on. The young people today are not looking for a job they want a career in which they can advance and prosper. I dont see IT being for many people.

  23. SpaceVegetable

    The problem is multi-layered. Think about the timing, first. People in that 5-10-year experience bracket would have been in school or just entering school during the dot-com bust in 2000-2001. They saw all those tech workers being dumped and unable to find work and so changed to other career paths. Additionally, many of those in the field at that time gave up on it after being out of work for a couple of years. Now, that problem is coming home to roost.

    The recent 2007 recession had the same effect, but not quite as concentrated on tech workers. Still, it had the same effect. Add to that the fact that technology is not an easy career path to take and is not regarded as particularly glamorous by the media (except for the likes of Zuckerberg and company), throw in the constant outsourcing and H1B imports that drive down wages and you have a perfect storm of disincentive for people to go into the field.

    I’m 47 and up until the past couple of years, I haven’t had an age-related problem finding work – primarily due to the fact that I usually work on contract, so health insurance and the fear of an employee leaving have not been factors. Lately, though, I’ve been interviewing with people far younger than me and have had lame reasons given as to why they aren’t interested. One place insisted I didn’t know SQL, when I’ve been using it extensively since 1998. The fact that I couldn’t answer one DBA-level question about database partitioning was their reasoning, even though they weren’t looking for a DBA, but a developer. All they need is a single excuse to avoid the age thing.

    Usually, I simply don’t hear from them again. There have been places where the minute I entered the office, I knew I wouldn’t get the job because everyone in the place was at least 15 years younger than me. I generally avoid startups because they tend to skew younger and I’m just not interested in working 80 hours a week. Been there, done that, had the migraines to prove it. That’s one reason I stick with contracting: if they want overtime, they need to pay for it.

    Companies need to take a hard look at themselves and their hiring policies. They’re driving people out of the tech industry and need to decide if they want to be giving their company secrets away to foreign countries or invest in some domestic workers who might actually stick around and help them grow. A 45-year-old worker still has nearly 25 years before retirement nowadays. That’s a lot of time to get things accomplished in a company.

    • Oh, you silly person. In the old days, a contractor or consultant got paid for hours worked. The new deal is work 50 to 60 hours a week, but only bill 40. This is particularly interesting as every employer has made me sign an agreement which includes a statement explicitly forbidding working hours that aren’t billed. If you won’t work the unpaid hours, you are a slacker and get dismissed and if you do work the unpaid hours you are technically in violation of your contract and so can be dismissed. Heads they win, tails you lose. Isn’t at-will employment and right to work wonderful????

        • SpaceVegetable

          Sorry to disappoint you, but *both* parties are equally at fault in this baloney. Republicans see it as good for business, while Democrats push for importing more immigrants and heaping even more costs on already-overloaded businesses. In either case, a company has no incentive to hire if they can’t make more money than what it costs to employ someone. Every new regulation and other expense is that much less they can spend on training new hires. Both sides have some fault in this and compromise seems to be a dirty word to all of them.

          • Space, you are sadly misinformed. The Republicans are pushing to remove caps on the H1B visa program, and keep the incentives to offshore. When the American Investment and Recovery Act was in congress, the “American dollars should be spent on American businesses provision was removed by republicans. This lead to the new San Francisco East span of the bay bridge being built in China. The earthquake restraint bolts snapped when they were tightened. Too late to do anything, so we have to pay for the expensive workaround on defective metal.

            The last illegal immigration amnesty was enacted by Reagan..

      • SpaceVegetable

        Hasn’t happened that way for me. In fact, I get paid for overtime, so long as it’s approved in advance. Heck, I even got time and a half on one contract in WA where it’s apparently required. That was a sweet deal. I’ve never had to work unpaid hours and if they tried to pull that crap, I’d be out the door. Why would anyone do unpaid hours when not getting employee benefits to compensate? Sure, crunch time can require some extra effort, but I’ve either been paid or worked out a comp time arrangement. You’re a sucker if you let them get away with that nonsense.

  24. As long as people focus on arbitrary requirements, this will continue to be a problem. Experience helps, but who is to say a 5 year minimum will lead to a beter employee than a 4 or even 3 year employee? As mentioned, letting computers pre-sort resumes is a horrible practice because it will weed out people that don’t fit the chronological requirement even if they have contributed to many projects (& have 5 years worth of experience in 3 years) or have exactly the type of skills needed to exceed expectations.

    On top of that, if there are no entry level positions offered at a company, then the talent pool will continue to drain. When we do see “entry level” positions they require things only achievable with prior experience, such as experience with IDEs or other software that is in the thousands if dollars. Aside from priacy, what fresh out of college or career-switcher has experience building with costly enterprise tools only used or obtainavle by people already in the field?

    This problem is amplified by impossible requirements, such as 5 years experience on a platform that has only existed for 4 years or less. So long as HR and thoughtless managers dictate requirements based on irrelevant criteria & let machines filter everyone else out while looking for snarks, this will continue to be a problem.

  25. “…or senior-level engineers with more than 20 years of experience.”

    What’s wrong with twenty year’s worth of experience? Afraid it’s going to cost some money? Of course it will. Along with that kind of experience comes expertise, knowledge, and an ability to get up to speed in a short amount of time. If you want someone that can be paid cheaply, sure, they’re around, but rest assured that if another opportunity presents itself to them, they’ll jump ship without a second thought.

    “Though older tech workers often say that recruiters never call back once they see their age, Luther Jackson, a program manager and researcher at the Sunnyvale-based employment and training agency NOVA, urges candidates to learn more about social networking and get involved in user groups and meetups.”

    Social networking and getting involved in user groups and meetups DON’T ADDRESS THE SUBJECT OF OLDER PEOPLE NOT GETTING CALLED BACK. Atta boy, Mr Jackson, avoid the subject entirely!

  26. Wow, so many comments here that I can identify with and agree upon. Im 54 and have been working in technoloy for over 30 years now and I’ve seen all of the situations discribed here over the last 8 years. From the huge layoffs in 2009 to the 5-10 experience “Sweet Spot” I have seen peoples careers distroyed, cut short and simply runied due to all of the above resons, particulay the H1B Visa scandel wich I believe is Treason against the Amarica People. The Corporate Suits that lobby our House and Senit and the government offical that pass these bills should be held liable in a military court for treasonist acts against the America Public.

    It was just good old corporate greed that Out Sourced, Down Sized and distroyed are manufacturing base and now their doing a find job for the next generation, distroying the computer science field here in America. Never mind us older workers we have already been Kicked to the curb and its over for most of us unless you really bone your skill sets at your own expenses and forget about what you use to make for a salary, the corpoated mungers just dont care because they cant make it work on their balance sheet, so they can earn their 1-10 Million dollar a year salaries right!

    This turn of events and culture change, which I call the dismanteling of US Technical culture, and I remind you that the people between 45 – 65 built the greatest technological advances of the twentyth century including: Space travel, the Computer and Semiconductor revolutions, Digiatal Electronics, the Internet, Medical Imaging, Sattelite Technology, Cell Phones, Apple Computer, Micro Soft, Orical, Ebay, Amizon and on and on. But now are considered to slow to figure hot how to develop a Twitter page, Androyd game or Face Book service. Come on! these social media technologies have changed the way we interact and echange information faster than ever before but its all built upon the enabeling technology that was develolped in the 70’s through the late 90’s . And even though these are the hot trends of the time their really pretty useless?

    It seems the the short sidedness of GREED! in Coporated America has caught up with it’s self and were just now begining to see the repercoutions. The lack in what was once known as mid level engineering talent (5-10 yrs) and no interest in math or sicence related college programs for college bound folks as well as a huge pool of highly experience people ver 48 with skills that are becomming antiquated day by day because they can’t get hired! (right on Jack Welsh) look what you have created.

    Advice for older job seekers: Update your skills, think younger, drop your price and become a consultant or contractor. This way your hired in with the expectation of being the expert to solve the problems. Of course you will need to solve the problems and then move on, this way you dont have to deal with incompetent middel managers or get passed up with the next management change over. Contracting is a much harder proposition than the comfy 9-5 you may have been use to but it pays the bills and the money in most cases is better than your old salary unless you were well over 100K. Be prepaired to work twice as hard, spend time in hotels, eat out alot, spend time way from your loved ones and travel most of the year. If you are capible of doing this then its easy to make between 120-130 K / Yr from any good contracting house. Good Luck Gray Beards and Gray Ladies? Things will never be the same again, change and adapt or Die.

  27. No one will spend 60k dollars for an education to compete with h1b visa holders. 35k a year is not worth going to school for. Any company that cant find talent is lacking in talent and insight. This is not just an iT problem its a American corporate problem. To cheap to hire workers with more experience. To scared to hire the nubie because they think the guy will leave if he gains to much experience. Out sourcing is costing more for less.

  28. David Evans

    You know, just as a side thought concerning H1B Visas, I wonder if all of this is partially our own fault? Really – I just said that and someone should hit me in the face for it, too.

    The phrase that got me thinking about this, was one I saw in a programming book on PHP today: “To programmers, laziness is a virtue,” and it’s not the only time I’ve heard that phrase, either (and admittedly, I hate that phrase). In the name of cleaner, more reusable, more bug-free code we’ve created languages that no longer require advanced degrees to use. Who worries about array.length in for loops anymore? Off by one errors are now a thing of the past! We all just use for each loops today – after all, processing power is cheap. Likewise, all the major things programmers used to create by hand, are now all freely available online and every day, their setup approaches something along the lines of calling a single function. Wizard.setup(); //The end.

    Anyone can do that, especially with IDEs that automagically fill in the setup function, once they type in Wizard. .

    We’ve made an incredible world on account of these practices, but maybe we’ve killed ourselves in the process. Code development today has become a task of grabbing source under the MIT license, pasting it together and then tossing a price tag on it. New features? Let the community handle that.

    Of course, if everything has been simplified so much, who needs a degree to program? Sure, you can create things others can’t, but there’s already a relatively similar piece of source code out there that we can take advantage of. For everything else, few businesses actually need it. Pay you $60k to develop an in-house version, or grab a guy from India and pay him $15k to implement the freely available one?

    I imagine, for instance, that there are far fewer programmers in India that can use plain C, or Assembly – but likewise, few companies make use of these technologies any more. Everyone uses C# or Java, complete with WYSIWYGs for UI design. In fact, very few programmers in the United States know these languages either. I once knew an American coder who was shocked to find out that Javascript could do square roots and trig functions.

    Of course, with others working on the simple code, we should be free to work on more advanced projects. The only problem is that companies aren’t interested in creating true innovation, they’re interested in short term profit. As long as they can slap the same price tag on the software thrown together by outsourced labor as they can on products built by educated engineers, they’re going to just throw together the software. There isn’t enough competition in their industries to inspire the fear to innovate, the feeling is that most of the windows of opportunity have closed. The winners of the software wars have been declared: there will always be a Google, an Amazon, a Windows, and an Adobe.

    We can make all the legislation we want, and it probably won’t change that mindset. The only way to change that situation, I’m thinking, is to add more competition to the market. That, unfortunately, is not so easy to do. In the world today, businesses no longer compete with one another, we’re the only ones competing, and it does us no good. Everyone can work 100x harder (well we can’t but…) and get every degree possible, but we’d still all be the undifferentiated to “the market”. Paid the same money at work. Charged the same money at the store. We don’t share in the profits, we only share in the suffering.

    • David,
      There is a lot of truth in what you are saying. The software engineers have vision and created frameworks and reusable code methodologies to make software development more efficient. The downside is that they (we) have been putting ourselves out of work, because now people with less training and experience can work with those tools.

      The basic tenant of Globalization is around Core Competence. We have lots of highly skilled American technologists, but, as you point out, companies are not interested in innovation only quarterly profits.

      It’s too bad that if technologists are so forward thinking, that they haven’t applied any of that intellectual capital to unionizing and protecting their jobs, careers, retirements, healthcare, …

  29. Manuel Arredondo

    I thought I was alone. After reading this article and the response to it, it seems that the same concern (in lieu of the word anger) is shared by many of us. It seems the same prejudicial practices against age prevails amongst many U.S. Companies today and the U.S. Government also.
    Looking at the large picture, why are we surprised to see inept employees, or even worst, psychological unfit employees, or irresponsible young brats that only seek how to benefit themselves with no consideration for the businesses’s welfare and success. Just yesterday it was reported through CNN how a number of government employees were suspended for cheating on the very tests that qualified them to handle the controls over nuclear weapons in strategic areas around the U.S. Although I could not point to this incident as a matter of age being at fault. I now see my recent degree studies in Homeland Security and Emergency Management as a waste of time and money. At a time when I thought Homeland Security studies would become essential to our country and private businesses, even the government will not hire people over a certain age, thus age discrimination prevails.
    In my case, I have tried to make ends meet for the last 3 years, exhausted my unemployment benefits and the extensions granted to me, returned to school and obtain a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree and ended up using all of my savings and retirement funds only to find out that no company is willing to hire me because of my age. I just filed for Bankruptcy and have no income to pay even for housing. My employment search has not even placed parameters that match my education, I have applied for basic jobs requiring only a GE or High School Diploma and have yet to hear of any job offers. Perhaps the CEO and the goverment should re-evaluate their hiring practices and consider the valuable assets they are knowingly ignoring by denying employment solely based on age which is discriminatory and against the law.

  30. John Doe unemployed americann citizen

    re:Manuel Arredondo | January 18, 2014

    Don’t fret Manuel. The law isn’t about truth. It is about who can make the better argument. Laws in this country are just that. A joke. They were never meant to protect the layman but to protect his boss from him. I’ve been unemployed now for three years and you know I still can’t believe the lies being told today to people are the exact same bullshit lies told by politicians back durng the dot come bull crap.