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How to support older workers re-entering the workplace

Research from the Centre for Ageing Better found that even before the pandemic there were already around 824,000 people aged 50-64 in the UK who were not working but wanted to be.  As our population ages and people live longer, it’s important that businesses and society more broadly encourages and supports people to continue working or take up a new career. 

Making older people part of the UK’s recovery 
Older workers will be integral to the success of the UK’s economic recovery and the government’s continued pledge to ‘Build Back Better’. The Government has outlined its commitment to supporting older workers through the Lifetime Skills Guarantee. Their importance also formed part of the rhetoric in the Queen’s speech, alongside the promise of a skill’s ‘revolution’. This narrative suggests an understanding not only of the challenges older workers may face currently, but also an indication that support should be provided.  

However, questions still remain around what is required of businesses that have older workers that want to retrain or if a business wants to take on an older worker. It’s crucial that the process of hiring an older worker is as straightforward as possible for businesses so that a key talent pool isn’t overlooked. The current apprenticeship levy has received mixed reactions and low engagement has been widely reported, it’s important that the government ensures that the same does not happen again. 

For both small and larger businesses, older workers provide many benefits. One of which is a different perspective on key decisions or campaigns. For businesses that produce a product or provide a service it’s crucial that it is accessible for all age groups. Having a range of different voices in the office allows a business to more clearly understand what people’s needs and wants are. 

Additionally, having older workers in the presence of more junior staff members can be rewarding for both parties. Areas such as public speaking and interpersonal skills that younger staff members may have less experience of, can be guided by their older colleagues. Likewise, a younger member of staff can help an older worker with understanding digital practices and operating new technology. 

Are adult apprenticeships the way forward?
One way that older people can begin their new career is through an adult apprenticeship. It’s a common myth that apprenticeships are just for 16-24 year olds as an alternative to university, but there is no age limit to studying an apprenticeship. Depending on the sector you choose, your current skills set and your age, an apprenticeship can take anywhere between one to five years to complete and it will require you to work between 30 and 40 hours per week in their role. 

Apprenticeships can also help people in a number of other scenarios too. Perhaps someone is moving from a manual role into an office job or you are looking to develop your skills so that you can work towards a promotion or job move. 

While going back to full time education to retrain can feel financially daunting for workers who are used to a receiving a monthly pay check and have outstanding financial commitments, an apprenticeship allows a student to learn while being paid. The amount you earn will depend on factors such as the sector, existing qualifications, experience and age aswell as the type of apprenticeship you opt for. Additionally, if childcare arrangements or financial uncertainty is holding someone back from starting an apprenticeship, further funding may be available through the course providers or colleges. 

Apprenticeships are a great way for people of all ages to establish new skills and get a foot in the door to their chosen career. Unlike university or college courses that may require you to solely study, an apprenticeship helps you to gain practical experience and build a relationship with your employer. The pandemic has encouraged many people to revaluate their future plans and consider what they want most from their daily life, whatever your age an apprenticeship is a great way to start carving out a new career for yourself.