In Maine, like many other states, there is a growing concern about a “brain drain” caused by retiring state employees. Roughly a quarter of IT workers working for Maine state government will be eligible for retirement in the next two years. According to Jim Smith, Maine’s Chief Information Officer, “about 3,000 years of experience is going to be walking out the door. It’s going to be transformational. We’re going to need to do something radical to address this change.”
The State of Maine has been trying to stem the tide of retirements while at the same time recruiting new IT workers to take the places of retiring workers. One thing they have done to stem the tide of retirements is to permit part-time work so that older workers can reduce their hours instead of just retiring. To attract new employees, the state has made applying for positions easier with a new app. It has also used an intern-mentor program to partner potential hires with veteran employees.
Maine’s efforts to retain older workers is particularly interesting given what we have seen in the private IT sector. As we have reported in the past, there is a perception that private IT employers have an ageist bias toward younger workers. For example, some look for so-called “digital natives” when they hire. In the private IT sector, turnover is relatively high. Given this reality, private companies are likely less concerned with retaining experience than with attracting new talent.
According to Smith, it sounds as though the State of Maine is just as concerned with retaining older IT workers, with years of experience, as it is with attracting new talent. Of course, it is possible that could change and the same ageist biases that seemingly drive hiring practices in the private IT sector could infect Maine state government. Indeed, it appears as though the new recruitment efforts for IT workers that the State is implementing are geared toward attracting younger workers. Whatever occurs, it is refreshing to hear Smith publicly tout the value of older, more experienced IT workers given the perception of how the private IT sector treats them.