Article by Ceri Wheeldon
With 2.5 million over 50 affected by the increase in state pension age and concerned for their futures, it seems incredulous that the only solution offered by Pensions Minister Guy Opperman in a packed debate in the House of Commons this week was to suggest women retrain or take up apprenticeships.
Hardly a solution!
in 2015/16 there were 509,000 apprenticeship starts in the UK. Government statistics do not break down the number of these apprenticeships taken by women over 50 affected by the changes, only that 11% of the apprenticeships were taken by those ages 45-59, and 1% over 60. Incidentally in 2010/2011 12% of apprenticeships were taken up by the over 45s, so in fact there has been a DECREASE in the proportion of apprenticeships for those affected since the timetable in pension age increase was announced, not increased as suggested by Mr Opperman in the debate.
If we assume that 55, 990 apprenticeships are available to the 2.5 million women affected , and in competition with women AND men over 45 – that leaves a dramatic shortfall.
No wonder the response to Mr Opperman’s suggestion was ‘shame on you’!
Are apprenticeships the answer for women over 50?
And are apprenticeships the answer in any case? While they may be an option for some, how are those women in their 50s supposed to support themselves while taking them? What skills are they going to acquire – will permanent well paid jobs be available at the end of these apprenticeships? what research has been conducted to determine what skills will be needed by employers that will be suitable for women in their late 50s and early 60s – plumbing and bricklaying are not really viable options – what is the breakdown of the types of apprenticeships available?
In the context of an ageing population, women over 50 recognise that some change in state pension is necessary. However, it is the speed of the change, the bringing forward of the timetable, the poor communication, and the lack of creation of work opportunities to address the need to work longer that has created the anger, frustration and fear for the future. For those looking at self employment as an alternative support had also diminished. Prime used to offer excellent resources and support for the over 50s wanting to set up businesses. They engaged directly with those wanting to acquire the help and support. Now, Prime in England ( not Scotland or Wales) has been rolled into Business in the Communities. Instead of offering training, workshops and mentoring for the over 50s , they now issue reports to businesses. They don’t seem to grasp the problem.
No practical solutions for women affected by increase in pension age
I have lost count of the number of talks and conferences about older workers I have attended over the past 7 years on the topic of jobs for the over 50s has been presented….but they all talk about statistics and the overall problem. Not one has offered any practical solutions.
I was a headhunter for nearly 30 years – I have had many briefing sessions with employers, reviewed more CVs and interviewed and prepared more candidates for jobs than I can even begin to count. I do know a little about matching skills to jobs, and working with employers to assess the skills needed! Readers of this website are immensely frustrated and upset that they are expected to delay their retirement with no effective transitional arrangements in place. They are rightly concerned for the future. Whenever I have tried to have a conversation about solutions with the speakers at these conferences who in theory are supposed to be driving programmes to resolve this issue I am met with a blank stare. It seems that to go back to the comfort of stating statistics and generating reports is preferable to the daunting task of solving the problem.
The clock is ticking. Women affected cannot afford to wait until the government really gets to grips with this issue.
Questions that need to be answered
So in summary I would like the following questions answered:
Has the government determined:
- How many of the women affected by the changes in the state pension age are in vulnerable positions when it comes to employment until retirement age?
- What skills are industry saying they will need that are appropriate for those women affected to acquire through apprenticeships/training?
- What, and how many apprenticeship and training schemes are in place to address the skills needed by those women affected?
- How are those women affected going to be supported financially as they retrain?
- What budget has been allocated for retraining?
Time is NOT on our side when it comes to resolving this.