Mike Thompson: The older generation are the new NEETs

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“It’s time for employers to take action to ensure that there is always a way into work, no matter how old you are” says Mike Thompson, Barclays.

Badge---Links-to-All-ArticlesIt has been widely reported that that we are facing a chronic skills shortage in the UK. The Government has suggested that based on current employer plans we will need to fill 13.5 million job vacancies in the next ten years, but only seven million young people will leave school and college in that time. We have to address this and find alternatives to the younger generation by providing opportunities to unlock the talent that is being heavily undervalued across all age brackets.

Once out of work, older workers face a much tougher task in finding opportunities to get back into full-time employment.  Whilst we often think of NEETs (those not in Education, Employment, or Training) in the context of youth unemployment, we are in fact seeing the older generation dominating this territory despite their greater maturity and developed soft skills offering employers added benefits. Government research has shown that if the 1.2 million unemployed over-50s could be employed, it would add £50 billion to the economy.[i]

Despite several studies over recent years showing older workers to be more productive and reliable than their younger counterparts, which comes as no surprise considering their length of experience in comparison, employers still favour graduates over older workers entering at the same level.

At Barclays, we believe that age or social circumstance shouldn’t be barriers or deciding factors in finding a viable route to employment. Reskilling can be achieved at any age. That’s why Barclays has launched the Bolder Apprenticeship programme, to demonstrate our commitment to creating career opportunities at any age.

The Barclays Bolder Apprenticeship programme is designed for candidates over the age of 24, including graduates, with no cap on age limit.  For those who have been unemployed for more than 12 months or part-time employed for less than 14 hours per week, this can be the perfect opportunity to get back into the workplace.

An apprenticeship helps those with little or no experience become ready for the world of work, and is designed to build confidence, experience and skills. It is not just an interim assignment; we offer a permanent role and career pathway.

By engaging in unemployed communities, Barclays is making careers in Banking and Financial Services more accessible to everyone, diluting the myth that a career in banking requires experience and qualifications, and opening the doors to those looking to re-skill.

There are many circumstances that might require an adult to re-skill and for the older generation, working into their 60s and above, it is increasingly becoming a necessity as well as a desire. It has been estimated that one million people aged 50 to 64 have left their previous jobs after being forced out due to their age. [ii]

Recent research from Barclays highlighted the multitude of reasons why people may find themselves out of work later in life, from caring duties to involuntary retirement and discrimination, and the often underestimated desire to stay in the workplace. The findings also revealed that nearly half of UK 50-somethings (45 per cent) would like to re-enter the workplace, with many feeling that their age is holding them back (33 percent). Furthermore, 46 per cent of over 50s admitted that they had no choice when it came to leaving their last employment and less than half (42 per cent) cited voluntary retirement as the reason behind them being out of work.

It’s time for employers to take action to ensure that there is always a way into work, no matter how old you are, and recognise the unique benefits that an older workforce brings. At Barclays, we’re having ongoing conversations with other businesses to increase collaboration, regardless of sector or industry, to address how we can maximise the valuable contribution older workers make.

Employers should encourage this untapped older talent back into the labour market. We need to be more effective at attracting them, as well as more flexible with adapting their work schedule to fit their lifestyle and potential caring responsibilities. This can be done through simple changes, from the language used in job descriptions to where jobs are advertised. More than anything, we need to raise awareness amongst the older generation that they are still wanted, still relevant, still hireable and that there are employers out there ready to accommodate their needs.

An employed older generation not only helps businesses thrive with the use of their unique skills, but helps the economy grow by filling increasing job vacancies. But businesses need to act now in order to benefit from the extensive skills and experience that older workers bring. It is important not to rule out older applicants when recruiting new talent.

 

[i] Statistics sourced from: Fundamental reform to fight ageism in the workplace: older workers’ scheme to tackle age discrimination, Department for Work and Pensions, 2014

[ii] Statistics sourced from: The Missing Million: Illuminating The Employment Challenges Of The Over 50s, The Prince’s                Initiative for Mature Enterprise, 2014

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