UK firms need to overhaul their thinking on older workers, or risk facing the same skills challenges in the future
With skills shortages showing no sign of slowing – with the latest ONS data revealing employment levels are up once again – and pleas from the Government for retirees to re-enter the workforce to help solve this, specialist recruitment firm, Robert Half, has cautioned that without an overhaul of skills development, the UK could be in the same situation in the next few years.
While the Government has encouraged workers over 50 to end early retirement through its midlife ‘MOT initiative’, and the Chancellor having recently announced that he is exploring a ‘slightly shorter type’ of apprenticeship, the firm has argued that these will be a missed opportunity unless employers and Government work together to agree and implement significant changes to engage and train this demographic.
Kris Harris, Regional Director – Midlands, Home Counties & East of England – from Robert Half, explained: “While we support any initiative aimed at bolstering the UK’s workforce and which helps ease the skills shortages currently challenging employers, we feel that without real change, the actions of today will simply delay the retirement cliff further, rather than resolve it. The current hiring, training and talent management landscape isn’t geared towards older demographics. This is a historical trend that we’ve seen and while we applaud the efforts to encourage over 50’s back into employment, this needs to be underpinned by a thorough strategy.”
“The skills and training issue is particularly pertinent. Not only is there a need to support the transfer of knowledge from older workers to those earlier on in their career, but those in the 50+ age bracket also need to be upskilled to ensure they are both working and training to their best abilities. The challenge is that there needs to be purposeful, structured programmes to address such upskilling and knowledge transfer initiatives.”
“And there are some stereotypes that still need to be challenged, such as the perception of apprenticeship considered as more beneficial for those early in their career, rather than as a tool to upskill and reskill workers who require additional development or choose to explore a radically different professional field, such as technology, for example.”
“It is paramount that employers and Government bodies work closely together to ensure that older workers are not only enticed to cease early retirement, but also provided with the upskilling support that will help them navigate the new world of work and be able to pass on their invaluable expertise and practical knowledge to the younger workforce. Time is of the essence and action is needed now, before they once again reach a point when they plan to exit the workforce. It’s rare to get a second chance at engaging with retirees – wasting this chance now will be detrimental to the country’s profile as a skills powerhouse.”