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American industrialist and Henry Ford said “…anyone who stops learning is old, whether 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young”.

For me as a 63 year old, using my 20 years experience as a senior project manager for the Department of Work and Pensions, working for Chapter 3 to support those who like me are in the third chapter of their lives to have a fulfilling career beyond 50 is something I can wholeheartedly relate to.

I want to keep my mind young and see myself working for as long as possible. It also resonates with the work I do which also includes working with organisations who support older people. These include those who are unemployed, assisting others with getting into work and also businesses who want to retain a productive and motivated mature workforce.

Never before has this issue been more nationally important. People are with people living longer, therefore we need  the older workforce to continue to work longer to ensure they have an economically stable future.

Businesses need to recognise that with the change in demographic of the workforce, which indicates that over the next 10 years there will be 7,000 fewer people age 16-49 but 3.7m more aged 50 to state pension age, meaning it’s time to acknowledge and plan for the inevitable skills gap.

In years gone by, and facing staffing reductions many older workers were encouraged towards ending their careers early when pensions were less stretched. However this results in both a cost to the economy and the workplace through decreased GDP and in lost skills from the workforce.

There are some preconceived ideas about older people and the work environment, however sufficient forethought and flexibility means that the over 50s can have a fulfilling and economically viable future. For business that translates as being able to retain people with work ready skills, who can transmit company values to new staff, make excellent mentors for younger employees, and provide an effective workforce for special projects.

Some of the reasons older people are out of work is because of health issues or responsibilities for caring for a loved one. With a bit of flexibility these older workers could still make a valuable contribution, for example working part time in line with other groups, such as those who have started a family.

Not ruling out your older workforce from training by making sure staffs skills do not stagnate is one way of making sure you get the most from your mature workforce. Research also suggests that putting older and young workers together helps both groups perform better.

Did you know about three quarters of individuals approaching retirement have for some time said that they would like to keep working in some capacity, yet only about a quarter of them actually do. Something is keeping this vital resource from working, and that something is on the employer side.

So it now lies with you, the recruiters, the HR professionals to think about how you can retain, retrain and recruit older people to fill that skills gap.

Nationally, 2.9 million over 50s are out of work with approximately 1 million of those wishing to work.

These figures are reflected in the Humber. With a large proportion of over 50s wanting to work and recognising that the workforce is going to need them, why isn’t this group being retained, retrained or recruited?

It’s over to you Humber businesses. If you want information, advice or support then contact Chapter 3 or take the time to be part of the conversation at the Over 50s event on November 20 2015. Book here

Terry King OBE

A skilled and productive workforce
A skilled and productive workforce
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