Take back workers who have had time out from the workforce

Employers confronting skills gaps caused by changing demographics have been urged to tap into the pool of skilled workers who are ready to return to the workforce after a period of absence.

From 2010, the number of young people entering the workforce will fall by 60,000 every year, according to government estimates. Statistics show that the UK will need 2.1 million more new entrants to the adult workforce than the population can deliver between 2010 and 2020.

This demand could partly be met if most adults retired later, but the only way to fully plug the skills gaps would be to increase the number of adults re-entering the labour force, a report from City & Guilds has argued.

Dormant Skills Untapped is based on interviews with 610 workers who have been out of the workplace for three months, and 604 HR managers. It reveals that many skilled workers are ready for re-employment.

Nearly four in 10 of the ‘returners’ hoped to get back to work within the next three months.

Mothers are the group most concerned, with nearly half worried about returning to work. In contrast, only 15% of those who are retired were apprehensive about moving back into work, compared with 31% of people overall.

Of those concerned about returning, 46% are nervous that they don’t have sufficient skills, despite having a high level of qualifications. Most (59%) of those worried about returning think that training would help, while a further 37% see work placements and career advice as the solution.

Businesses are generally receptive to the idea of taking on returners, with 52% of the HR managers polled claiming there is no limit to the amount of time you could be out of the workplace but still successfully return.

Judith Norrington, head of policy development at City & Guilds, said: “It is critical that employers review their retention and recruitment policies and welcome a diversity of skills in the workplace.”

How to attract returners

  • Explore how the company can become a desirable workplace for returners, particularly to older recruits, and highlight a commitment to diversity and training.
  • Be aware of changes in the employment market, and be flexible to accommodate those changes.
  • Regularly invest in the development of older workers and returners, and raise their skills levels through skills audits, refresher courses and job-specific training.
  • Extend work placements to all types of returners.
  • Be open-minded: many returners are willing to take a more junior role than they previously worked in.

Source: City & Guilds

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