Academics urge employers to use older workers to fill skills gaps as more mature staff put off retirement

Employers must learn to appreciate the experience and expertise older people can bring to the workforce if they are to address the looming skills shortage, academics have warned.

The third annual HSBC Future of Retirement study has found that early retirement is not an option many working people aged 40-59 expect to take, while nearly half (47%) of the 60-69 year olds and four in five (80%) of the 50-59 year olds polled still do some form of paid work.

The results suggest that “70 is the new 50” – and experts urge employers to utilise older people’s skills.

Professor Sarah Harper, at the Oxford University Institute of Ageing, worked with HSBC on the report. She told Personnel Today: “All the latest surveys show that people over 40, let alone 50, want more training than they get. They want to keep upgrading their skills.

“It’s perfectly possible to train people even in their 70s. If HR adapts to training older people as they’ve adapted to young people, they can get the same results.”

Harper called for the Leitch Review skills pledge to “find a new way of judging” the skills of each employee, to take into account experience and expertise alongside gaining Level 2 qualifications.

“The thing that will cause a problem,” Harper said, “is emphasis on qualification rather than experience. Employers need to wake up to that – there is a skills shortage coming up and the older age groups can help,” she said.

Free training for under 25s

The Department for Education and Skills has prioritised young people in its latest scheme to boost workers’ skills.

The Learning and Skills Council will invest £11m into further education colleges satisfying its quality assurance process, enabling those providers to offer under-25s free training to obtain a level 3 qualification, equivalent to two A levels.

The initiative was introduced after the Leitch Review urged UK businesses to train workers ahead of a skills famine.

Courses will be available from August 2007.

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