Grey is the colour, training is the game

I confess to a certain fascination with old newsreel footage of bygone days. You know the sort: flat-capped crowds at football matches, suffragettes on the march, and the Queen Mum telling bombed-out Cockneys to rustle up some bread and dripping and be quick about it.

So you can imagine what a treat it was to watch a recent BBC programme on colour footage from the 1920s, presented by the admirable Dan Cruickshank. This comprised film made by movie pioneer Claude Friese-Green of everyday scenes shot while journeying from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

One flickering shot was of a worn-out worker who didn’t look a day under 90 – or, in Robert Redford years, under 120. Cruickshank gravely intoned: “Actually, he’s only 52. In those days, most men were dead by 55.”

It confirmed my long-held belief that pre-1956 – when teenagers were invented – everyone, including babes in arms, looked at least 60. Today, only the over-80s look dodderingly elderly.

The old are the new young and, as you will have noticed, they’re increasingly visible in the workplace. By 2030, one in four workers will be over 55, and one in three over 40. What does this mean for training and associated activities?

Well, the good news is that most will have their own teeth, so Steradent and fixatives in the training room will be unnecessary. The difficulty is in trying to figure out how training should be adjusted to cater for the grey panthers of the workplace, if at all.

Recent research from Thales Training & Consultancy indicates that the over-40s get less from training than the stellar 31 to 40-year-old age group – apparently the peak age range for training aptitude.

If the value of training for the over 40s – and that includes you, Teddy Sheringham – needs attention, then what sort does it need?

In my view, not a lot – the fact is that in general, mature people will have acquired more skills and knowledge than younger ones simply by having worked for a relatively long time. Their training needs will likely be fewer.

And, should they need to acquire new skills and knowledge, this can be done alongside younger colleagues. Heaven forbid that non-physical training programmes have to be age-related, or that trainers have to incorporate course elements that will have specific generational appeal.

That could mean showing black and white videos – and no-one wants that.

The drawing’s on the wall

Some national newspapers have had a field day reporting that Immigration and Nationality Directorate officials recently spent time, during a training course, drawing cartoons visualising what the agency would look like in 2010. Apart from wondering if drawings of headstones with RIP on them pre-dominated, my first thought was: that’s what goes on in training. It also reminded me of a training session I attended where participants had to create a visualisation of their current working life. One drew an armed sniper nestling in a tree. “What does that mean?” he was asked. “It’s my boss,” he replied. “He’s always trying to shoot me in the back.”

John Charlton, editor and training manager

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