New research warns that older staff are most at risk of being deemed a “write-off” at work because of outdated skills.

A new study by the City & Guilds Group finds that employees aged over 55 are at the highest risk of being left behind in terms of formal workplace training.

This is having a knock-on effect on their skillsets – making the skills they have less relevant and individuals less employable, according to the report.

When questioned about whether they had undertaken any workplace training over the last five years, only half (53 per cent) had done so.

This compares to over two-thirds (67 per cent) of 35–54-year-olds and over four in five (83 per cent) of 18–34-year-olds. 

Close to two-fifths (38 per cent) of staff aged 55 or over reported having formal workplace training around ten years ago or never at all.

The study warns that this poses real problems for older workers as many do not feel they need to retrain, believing they have all the skills necessary to succeed at work (47 per cent). In addition, only a fifth (20 per cent) are planning to retire soon – leaving the majority with an outdated skill-set.

Despite this, paradoxically, over half of businesses (54 per cent) cite having problems with finding recruits with the correct skills.

Yet,  just one in seven (14 per cent) businesses state they would consider turning to recruiting or retraining older workers or retirees to tackle skills shortages.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE, CEO of City & Guilds Group, commented: 

We are all living longer, healthier lives than previous generations, meaning more people will also need to work until they are at least 70 to ensure they have enough saved to retire. But with the pace of change in businesses only exacerbated by the pandemic – and the data painting a clear picture of chronic under-investment in training older, more experienced workers – we risk consigning a generation of valuable workers to the scrapheap, just when many industries are crying out for more workers post Brexit and as we unlock society after the pandemic.

 And, with many older workers impacted by the pandemic, we also need to create opportunities for them to re-enter the workplace, for instance through flexible work or training that fits around their responsibilities. Ultimately, if we don’t keep on investing in our workforce throughout their lives, recognising their value right through to retirement, older workers will not to be able to contribute effectively to their employers and the economy in years to come. And this is something we simply can’t afford.

Kevin Rowan, Head of Organising Services and Learning at the Trade Union Congress (TUC) said:

We fully agree with City & Guilds’ findings regarding older workers being left behind in the workplace. In our own research considering supporting older workers, released earlier this year, the TUC identified that older workers had been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic.

Access to learning opportunities are an important feature of good quality work and fulfilling lives, including maintaining good mental health. Older workers being disadvantaged or prevented from learning is both economically and socially damaging, short-sighted and counterproductive. We need genuine lifelong learning for all.


*This can be found in the Skills Index report. For the consumer research, City & Guilds Group commissioned Opinium to survey 2,003 working age adults across the UK. Fieldwork took place from 13th to 17th May 2021. For the employer research, City & Guilds Group commissioned British Chambers of Commerce to survey 1,090 of its member businesses across the UK. Fieldwork took place in April 2021.