Why are some programmers unemployed

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The 26 unemployed specialists and managers between the ages of 43 and 57 who are completing a one-year advanced training course to become SAP R / 3 consultants at the Siemens Training Center in Essen also had to experience this. "We don't hire anyone over 35," was the response from many HR managers to the applications from the 51-year-old computer scientist Hans Löffler.

Is the industry only looking for young employees while the older and more expensive workers are laid off? It looks like this: IBM Germany tries to say goodbye to all employees who are older than 49 years with a termination agreement. Thyssen-Krupp Informations Services GmbH is planning an in-house early retirement scheme for all employees aged 52 and over. A look at the latest statistics (see graphic) from the Federal Employment Agency shows that it is already critical for job seekers from the age of 35. First of all, it is noticeable that the IT specialists registered there as unemployed are not for the most part the much-cited print template manufacturers or data center specialists. Rather, statistics are led by information electronics professionals, data processing specialists and application programmers - professionals for whom there is definitely a demand in the market. But the majority of those registered with the BfA are simply too old for the industry.

Union representatives oppose the claim that the unemployment of older IT specialists is solely due to their "lack of flexibility" or their "outdated knowledge". For Wolfgang Müller, software developer and member of the IG Metall district management in Munich, the assertion of the IT skills shortage serves other goals, for example further rejuvenation and cheaper workforce. The companies wanted to avoid the costs of long-term qualifications. In the USA, too, despite the laws against age discrimination, almost only young, single university graduates or skilled workers from abroad are hired.

If you ask the companies, they first ask: "Whether someone is 55 or 25 years old does not matter to us, if the personal and professional competence is right," explains Gundolf Mortiz from SAP AG. However, the applicant must fit into the team structure. And the fact is that the average age of the workforce is 35 years. Both sides would have to ask themselves honestly: Does the older one fit into this team structure?

Teams of young and old can be highly productive, says Jürgen Deller, professor of business psychology at the Northeast Lower Saxony University of Applied Sciences and former HR manager at Debis Systemhaus in Berlin. Different views and approaches could increase creativity and efficiency in project work rather than a self-satisfied consensus.

"The companies say quite simply: This position can only be filled by someone under 40", is also the experience of Samina Boutari from the Pro Job employment agency for specialists and executives in Cologne. The most common line of argument made by hiring managers: The team is so young. A 55-year-old may have trouble accepting a 32-year-old as a manager. On top of that, older employees are usually more expensive than their younger colleagues. Due to the year 2000 problem, some companies would have brought back their old programmers. Nevertheless, the Cologne employment agency, which has been on the market since 1994, was only able to find a job this year for the first employee over 45.

"I have the feeling that some managers who were younger were afraid that I would later take their jobs away from them," says the 52-year-old business economist Bernd Füllert, who is also taking part in the training to become a SAP consultant Many years of professional experience, we are more of a dormant pool and approach things in a more uncomplicated and logical way, "describes the 51-year-old logistics expert Helmut Mracsek from Oberhausen. His experience in job interviews: "A company representative told me bluntly that, because of my age, I would not be prepared to go abroad for a long time."

The younger the applicants, the less mobile they are

Personnel consultant Boutari has had completely different experiences: "The younger the applicants are, the less flexible and mobile they are." However, older workers need to be more flexible when it comes to their salary expectations. "Some of us would also start as freelancers with annual contracts and a beginner's salary," says Mracsek, describing the motivation of his course colleagues. After all, it's about "going in, getting a foothold and stepping on the gas". But apparently, even at Siemens, they are not convinced of the point of their own qualification measure. At least that is what the experiences of the Essen course participants suggest, whose applications from the company did not meet with any positive response. A letter from the Nuremberg-based personnel service provider Christian Strub GmbH confirms that entrepreneurs are reserved towards retraining: "Unfortunately, we only need SAP consultants with extensive project experience at the moment. In addition, our clients require nationwide mobility. Age expectations are between 30 and 45 years . " Pro Job also rejected it on behalf of its customer: "In principle, Lufthansa Systems is interested in such applicants, but unfortunately the age of the proposed applicants is too old."

Still, according to HR expert Boutari, there is hope. Your tip: Anyone who applies directly to a company and shows firm will has opportunities. For Eva Peters, managing director of the Stuttgart personnel consultancy Interconsult, personal initiative is the top priority in order to advance professionally. "Anyone who has been in the same position in the same company for ten years and has perhaps only noticed a few innovations or innovative projects, at some point it will be too late. They will be labeled as blind, and then no one wants them anymore." The headhunter appeals to younger IT employees to keep looking around the job market in order to test their own market value. This also includes constant further training, if necessary also in your free time, and not just waiting for offers from the employer.

* Veronika Renkes works as a freelance journalist in Bonn.

Fig .: Unemployed IT specialists

Since December, the number of unemployed in the IT industry has increased again by a good 1,000 to 31,881. Source: BfA