As the workforce gets older, boosted by impending age discrimination legislation, employers need to consider their staff's changing skills needs. Margaret Kubicek asks if training initiatives will help
Latest research into age issues in the workforce compiled by the Employers' Forum on Age and Penna Sanders & Sidney highlights a host of questions facing employers as working life is extended by longer life spans and by employees' anxieties about pension provision.
Employers must adapt to the needs of 'Generation Flex' - not considered 'over the hill' now until 49 - and the UK must introduce age discrimination legislation by 2006 which may make mandatory retirement illegal. With these tensions in mind, we ask how can employers make the most of older workers' skills and keep them up to date?
Campaign director, Employers' Forum on Age
There have been arguments about return on investment with regard to training older workers, but if you don't have fixed ages at which people have to leave the workforce, the argument that it won't be worth training them at 58 because they might leave at 60 just doesn't hold water anymore.
Different age groups need to be taught in different ways. I don't think you can make generalisations about what is best for each age group, though I think mixed age learning environments are beneficial. Employers need to be talking to the individuals they are training and learning from others what works. People have different learning styles - employers need to be aware of that and supply appropriate training.
Consultant, Penna Sanders & Sidney
People are having to work much longer and I think that is going to pressurise employers to offer different, more flexible ways of working. The training they offer needs to support that; for example career management workshops to help people consider their different options.
We encourage the employee to take control of their career and through that they need to work out what will keep up their enthusiasm - it may be things like taking a sabbatical, or doing more studies.
Director of employment policy, BTGroup
In high-tech areas where training is expensive, there could be a case for not upgrading an employee. For example, if you had a 64-year-old who intended to retire in a couple of years, if that training cos