Older people and employment Contents

4A workforce for the future

86.Working life is changing. Rather than having a single 35 or 40-year linear career, increasingly the reality is that people will spend some time in work, some time caring, and may want to change career to do something else at another time.147 This is not true of older workers: the World Economic Forum has predicted that 65 per cent of children now in primary school will end up doing jobs that do not currently exist.148 This chapter considers some of the proposals from witnesses on how the Government can respond to this changing reality.

A mid-life ‘MOT’

87.Career advice is often thought of as the province of young people at the outset of their careers. As a way of helping people adjust to changes in their working lives and environments, however, many people advocate a ‘mid-life MOT’ or career review. Later Life Ambitions wanted to see this offered to everyone at age 50, as did Age UK and the CIPD.149 For Yvonne Sonsino, the perfect mid-life MOT would go beyond career and learning advice: it would also cover health and finances so as to help people plan better for later life. She told us that a similar review was compulsory in France and that it “would not be a bad thing” if they were compulsory here too.150 Andy Briggs wanted to see such reviews much more strongly encouraged by the Government, although he held off calling for them to be compulsory.151

88.The Government told us that the National Careers Service is delivering mid-life career reviews via employers. It appears these rely on employers taking up the offer. The Government cited companies based in Manor Royal in Crawley, the largest business district in South East England, as among those that had done so, but did not provide statistics on the overall level of take up which suggests to us that it may be low.152 Patrick Thomson of the Centre for Ageing Better told us that they were currently working with the Department for Work and Pensions to build on mid-life career reviews, focussed on jobs and skills, to a broader ‘MOT’ approach that looks across the board at how people manage major life changes such as retirement planning.153

89.Mid-life career reviews can act as an effective tool in financial and career planning, both of which are important to preventing people falling out of the workforce, or finding themselves trapped in unfulfilling employment. Promoting access to such reviews should form an important part of the mentoring scheme for employers that we have recommended.

Access to career advice and support seeking employment

90.The Government told us that the National Careers Service is working with Fuller Working Lives to explore ways of providing support to people aged over 50. The Service is working with the Department for Work and Pensions and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to test offering careers advice for employed older people through their employer, as part of efforts to retain them in the labour market. For those seeking work, the National Careers Service provides “free, up to date, impartial information and advice” on careers, skills and the labour market in England, and has careers advisers in the majority of Jobcentre Plus offices.154 The Government told us that work coaches are supported by a network of ‘Older Claimant Champions’, located in all 34 Jobcentre Plus Districts, who highlight the benefits of employing older jobseekers and share best practice.155

91.The Centre for Ageing Better welcomed the introduction of these Champions as having helped to increase awareness of the needs of older workers among work coaches. They nevertheless reported “variable” experiences with Jobcentre Plus. They told us that even high-intensity employment support was not particularly well tailored to older workers’ needs.156 The Employment Related Support Association (ERSA) were concerned that Jobcentre Plus services had problems developing an accurate assessment of older jobseekers’ needs.157 Such concerns are borne out by the evidence: the Centre for Ageing Better reported analysis of the Work Programme showing that just 16.2 per cent of people aged over 50 were supported into a long-term job. That is a success rate of less than one in six, which they told us was worse than any other group regardless of gender, ethnicity or disability.158 As a result, the Centre for Ageing Better called for more tailored support, a call supported by Age UK and Carers UK.159

92.The experiences of individuals who submitted evidence to us back up these calls. Gill Kennett described her experience of using a Jobcentre Plus: the only specialist information she was offered was a website advertising jobs for older workers that “had only a handful of jobs posted and none at all within 200 miles of where I live” and she felt that the Jobcentre “seemed to assume that the only thing stopping older workers finding work was a lack of knowledge about computers and the internet.”160

93.We spoke to a group of older job seekers about their experiences of trying to gain employment.161 Each had found themselves looking for work for different reasons, but all had experience of using Jobcentres and specialist support. For some the only real barrier they faced was discrimination: one applicant described being turned down for job after job and being left with a strong sense that those recruiting just wanted someone younger. Others, however, wanted access to training or support that would either help them update their skill set or to change career. None felt that their local Jobcentre had helped them—no-one had heard of the Older Claimant Champion and one had been told to remove experience from his CV and been referred to a scheme for young people. They all, however, praised the specialist support they were receiving from Open Age—the specialist support service for older jobseekers that had helped us to bring the group together—which at least one had accessed via the Jobcentre and that received funding from the Government to support older claimants.162

94.There were other examples of good practice: the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) had been partnering with Jobcentre Plus to deliver a programme “leveraging the unique skills, insight and expertise” of their members as human resources professionals to support a range of people, including older jobseekers. They explained:

The programme offers jobseekers six to eight one-to-one mentoring sessions (via phone, video chat or face-to-face) with a local volunteer Steps Ahead mentor (all CIPD members) to help them improve their employability skills, boost their confidence and find work. The majority of mentees are referred by their local Jobcentre Work Coach and seven in ten of those who complete the mentoring process find work.163

95.Through the introduction of Older Claimant Champions the Government has recognised the need for Jobcentre Plus to develop the awareness and skills to provide specialised support to older jobseekers. But this is not translating into widespread good practice on the ground. We recommend that the Government undertake a review of the specialist support available to older people through the Jobcentre Plus network, including the role of the Older Claimant Champions, and develop an action plan to improve both the content and availability of such support.

A national skills strategy

96.Access to careers advice and support is important, but the demographic changes to the UK population do not just need people to work longer in later life—they will also lead to changes to the skills profile of the UK workforce. This is recognised by the Industrial Strategy, and the Government has commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to undertake a “wide-ranging consultation to form a UK-wide view of our skills needs”.164

97.The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has called for the Industrial Strategy to have “skills and people at the forefront” and for a national skills strategy. Andy Briggs, the Government’s Business Champion for Older Workers, supported calls for a national skills strategy. He felt that work on skills and development was not currently well joined-up across government.165

98.Tom Hadley explained his view on what such a strategy would look like: firstly, there would be a body that would collate and report the evidence to make sure that training meets current and future need. He told us that:

We still hear from our people who work in technology […] saying that though people were receiving training, they were training on the wrong computer programs, not the ones that would be in demand the following year.166

The second part would be about career advice and training, including for career changes. This was connected to the ability of Jobcentre Plus work coaches to provide the kind of specialist support discussed above—Mr Hadley argued that it was difficult for work coaches to have specialist knowledge of all the different sectors. A skills strategy could be used to put in place a system to fill this gap.167

99.The need for greater access to life-long learning was a common theme connected to calls for a skills strategy. Yvonne Sonsino of Mercer cited Singapore as an example: they had started to fund university for those in mid-life seeking to change career. The TUC wanted to see the Government set an ambition to increase investment in both workforce and out of work training to the EU average within the next five years, including by investing in a new life-long learning account.168 The CIPD wanted to see funds allocated to improving productivity used to support life-long learning.169 A strategy would also need to go beyond life-long learning; Catherine Sermon of Business in the Community gave the example of work in Germany that made it easier for employees to understand what transferable skills they would need to work across a given industry.170

100.As with careers advice, however, initiatives on learning need to be tailored to an older audience. Age UK was clear that older workers did want to progress and learn new skills, but that many did not take up training as it was designed for younger people. They argued that older people appreciated learning in a different way, with less emphasis on gaining formal qualifications.171 Teresa Donegan, Head of Learning and Organising Services at UNISON, told us that older women often struggled to access training due to caring responsibilities. The time available for training and development had also shrunk, especially with the increased use of zero hours contracts, variable hours or fixed minimum hours. Ms Donegan told us that UNISON tried to be flexible in when and how they ran courses, but were often having to make them shorter—one or two-hour sessions instead of a full day—and run them in the evenings and on weekends. Online training could help, but the technology needed to be right. UNISON had tried this with a group of cleaners who “were all very savvy on their mobile phones”, but the training was not accessible via a mobile app.172

101.Alok Sharma MP, Minister of State for Employment at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) discussed what the Government was doing on skills. As well as the work with the National Careers Service, local enterprise partnerships and employers on career advice, the Government had committed £40 million to pilot career learning initiatives173 designed to “test how we can effectively engage adults about the opportunities and benefits of learning.”174 This was welcomed by the TUC and the Centre for Ageing Better.175

102.The Government is also planning a National Retraining Scheme, which the Governments Careers Strategy states will “give individuals the skills they need to progress in work, redirect their careers and secure the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future.” Two pilots are currently being funded: £30 million for digital skills and £34 million for the construction industry.176 When asked if this was, essentially, a national skills strategy, Duncan Gilchrist, the Deputy Director responsible for Fuller Working Lives in DWP said:

I would not want to commit myself, but effectively, yes. It is a mechanism to try to make sure that, of our skills base, the people who do not have current, relevant skills are able to go into sectors where there are current, relevant skills gaps.177

103.The Government has recognised the need for a more strategic approach to skills development in the UK, and emerging initiatives are welcome. However, these fall short of a national skills strategy and lack specific, explicit attention to the needs of older workers and the barriers they face. We recommend that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy develop a national skills strategy, with a focus on life-long learning, as part of taking forward the Industrial Strategy. This must include specific consideration of the needs of older workers, explicitly challenging assumptions that certain forms of training are only for young people, and must look at ways to make access to training and skills development a truly life-long opportunity.


147 Q24

148 Q6

149 Later Life Ambitions (OPE0045); Age UK (OPE0036); Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (OPE0032)

150 Q25

151 Q199

152 HM Government (OPE0034)

153 Q22

154 HM Government (OPE0034)

155 HM Government (OPE0034)

156 Centre for Ageing Better (OPE0039)

157 Employment Related Services Association (OPE0026)

158 Centre for Ageing Better (OPE0039)

159 Centre for Ageing Better (OPE0039); Age UK (OPE0036); Carers UK (OPE0040)

160 Miss Gill Kennett (OPE0010)

161 See Annex 1: Older people and employment outreach event, 1 May 2018

162 Annex 1: Older people and employment outreach event, 1 May 2018

163 Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (OPE0032)

164 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Industrial Strategy: bulding a Britain fit for the future, 27 November 2017, page 125, accessed 26 June 2018. The consultation can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/call-for-evidence-and-briefing-note-eea-workers-in-the-uk-labour-market, accessed 26 June 2018

165 Q178

166 Q118

167 Q118

168 Trades Union Congress (OPE0035)

169 Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (OPE0032)

170 Q191

171 Age UK (OPE0036)

172 Q108

173 Q211

174 Department for Education, Careers strategy: making the most of everyone’s skills and talents, December 2017, page 28, accessed 26 June 2018

175 Trades Union Congress (OPE0035); Centre for Ageing Better (OPE0039)

176 Department for Education, Careers strategy: making the most of everyone’s skills and talents, December 2017, page 29, accessed 26 June 2018

177 Q222




Published: 17 July 2018