Aging and Working in the New Economy
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Aging and Working in the New Economy

Changing Career Structures in Small IT Firms

Edited by Julie Ann McMullin and Victor W. Marshall

The case studies and analyses developed in this timely book provide insight into the structural features of small and medium-sized firms in the information technology sector, and the implications of these features for the careers of people who are employed by them.
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Chapter 6: Knowledge Workers in the New Economy: Skill, Flexibility and Credentials

Tracey L. Adams and Erin I. Demaiter


Tracey L. Adams and Erin I. Demaiter In the New Economy, information technology (IT) workers have been regarded as quintessential knowledge workers: highly-skilled, educated and knowledgeable people who work with cutting-edge technologies and process information. While this image is not inaccurate, it belies a great deal of complexity. IT workers are found in a wide variety of jobs, some of which demand a great deal of skill, and some of which are more routine. Further, IT workers are not always educated. IT has long been a technical field where the self-trained high-school drop-out might work alongside a PhD in science (Ensmenger, 2003: 154). Even among the educated, people have entered IT work from a wide variety of educational backgrounds and disciplines. Traditionally the significance of education to this kind of knowledge work has not been clear. Largely because of this ambiguity, and with the desire to demarcate the trained from the untrained, professional and industry organizations have sought to establish education programs, examinations and credentials over the past 50 years (Adams, 2004; Ensmenger, 2001). Creating education programs and curricula for a broad, rapidly changing field has been an ongoing challenge, but organizations in the US, UK, Australia and Canada have nonetheless made great strides. Yet, researchers have raised doubts concerning the importance of these programs. As Benner (2003) argues, there are many ways to acquire IT knowledge and skills. There is little social closure in the field, and it is not the case in IT, as it is in many...

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