Article by Ceri Wheeldon
When will you retire? How many of us have spent our working lives assuming we would retire at 60, only to find as we approached our 60th birthdays that the goalposts had changed.
I attended a conference organised by the International Longevity Centre yesterday- all about extending working lives and inequalities in the workplace for the over 50s.
I left feeling extremely frustrated.
It started at 9:30 am and finished at 4pm. During that times we were presented with lots of facts about the ageing workforce, the reasons for the need to raise the state pension age, the need for the over 50s to work for longer, and the cost to the country of funding pensions for an ageing population. Nothing new, no rocket science. And what I found extremely frustrating….no solutions. There was recognition of the problems facing older workers, lip service was paid to those affected by women caught up the recent increases in state pension age, but while there was a lot of talk about why everyone needed to stay in work longer, there were no statistics presented on what those jobs would be, where those jobs would be, or what skills were needed. And very little recognition of how peoples’ lives are affected by the lack of employment for those over 50.
We know the problem…..I have been listening to similar presentations for the last 6 years …but while a lot of money appears to be spent on researching population trends, I do not see a lot of emphasis on identifying the skills required to be employable over 50, or the training in place to ensure that people have those skills.
What skills are in demand?
Apparently The Fuller Working Lives Programme (DWP initiative) has asked employers to commit to hiring 1 million more workers over 50 by 2022. Again, there was no mention of what those jobs were or the skills needed to do them. How can people prepare and ensure that they are employable if they don’t want what skills are actually in demand?
I approached some of the speakers during breaks to discuss some of these issues . Most were dismissive. Perhaps my name badge saying that I was from Fab after Fifty was not serious enough. Who knows. It was suggested by one that it was very ‘kind’ of me to have put the effort into trying to help!
Opportunities for women over 50 is something I am passionate about. I am in constant contact with women over 50 via the website and social media channels affected by the changing landscape o I know how lives are affected. I have nearly 30 years experience recruiting people – many over 50, and have worked with major employers on transition programmes in changing the skills profiles recruited as their business models changed. Goodness knows how many thousands of people I have interviewed over the years – or how many CVs I have reviewed and employers I have spoken to. I have real life, not theoretical experience of the issues. I am so frustrated that these issues are not being addressed- the more time we waste the more lives will be affected – and not for the better.
Perception of ‘older’ workers is an issue
It was suggested that there were perception issues regarding stereotypes when it came to older workers – but no solution proposed to change those perceptions.
What was interesting was that at the conference, there seemed to be very few attendees from industry. The employers need to be fully engaged if things are to change. Until then I feel we are a long way from resolving the problem….and it will get worse with time…not better!!
If the government knows where these jobs are, and what skills are needed to do them. then it certainly needs to be better communicated!!