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Will the government’s skills and education bill resolve the issues for 50plus jobseekers?

Article by Ceri Wheeldon

governments new skills bill and older workers image

It is generally being seen as positive following the Queen’s Speech that the government is introducing a skills and post 16 education bill. But will this resolve the issue of those made redundant in roles in midlife, or those looking to return to the workplace following a career break as carers or full time parents?

“Skills and Post-16 Education Bill: Provides a right to government-backed training for all adults who do not have A-levels or equivalents.  All adults will have access to four years of loans to undertake training or education .”

I suspect not.  We do not yet have the full details, but only those who do not have A-levels or equivalents qualify. Also , if retraining later in life is it realistic to take more time out of the workplace to train/reskill and start looking for work on completion with additional debt? Not to mention having had to also cover living costs whilst retraining.

This solution is not, I believe, the answer for most 50plus jobseekers looking to find meaningful employment.

I believe that more needs to be done to work with employers to ensure that employees are maintaining and developing skills ‘on the job’ at every age, and that employers are educated to not discriminate against older workers – whether that be while in post or during the recruitment process.

Most employers would claim to have a diversity and inclusivity policy, and claim to be ‘age friendly’. However if you look at corporate websites’ careers pages  the images do not reflect this. Nor does the language used in many job adverts. Much as job adverts in the past have used language that can be described as gender biased – today language in ads is often age biased.

The recruitment process- and specifically gamification, is also biased against older workers not brought up as part of the game boy generation.

More education needed around inclusivity in the workplace

More education is needed to encourage age inclusivity in the workplace – studies have shown that having older workers in teams increases productivity. Furthermore the myth that older workers are slow to adopt new systems and technology has also been shown to be untrue – older workers are early adopters – they have the ability to process the benefits of using more quickly.

In addition, as the population ages, the ‘older’ worker can best resonate with the customer base of most products and services. It is the over 50s who have the greatest spending power – despite marketing budgets being targeted at younger generations!  Having the workplace reflect your customer base makes good business sense when it comes to product development and engagement.

Recruitment polices need to be analysed – I hear the disappointment of experienced teachers for example who see their roles replaced with NQTs  (Newly Qualified Teachers). It may be good for budgets – but is it ultimately benefitting the education of the next generation?

Those using the services of job centres to find employment are also going to be at a disadvantage as long those who are helping them get back into work are being set targets. Why you put more effort into help placing a harder to place 50 or 60 something job seeker  in a new role when you can tick more boxes by placing more younger and easier to get hired candidates?

There is so much that needs to be done to help older workers – but I’m not convinced that loans for education will be the answer for those seeking employment today.


Ceri Wheeldon

Ceri is Founder and Editor of Fabafterfifty.co.uk She is a frequent speaker at events and in the media on topics related to women over 50 , including style and living agelessly. With 20+ years experience as a headhunter Ceri also now helps support those looking to extend their working lives.

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