More than a third of over-55s did not receive workplace training in last decade, study finds

Experts urge businesses to invest in upskilling or risk throwing valuable older workers on the 'scrapheap' at a time when demand for labour is high

The over-55s are most likely to miss out on workplace training, according to new research.

A study by City & Guilds Group found that in the past five years, only half (53 per cent) of people aged 55 and over have taken part in formal workplace training, compared to 67 per cent of 35- to 54-year-olds and 83 per cent of 18- to 34-year-olds.

And over a third (38 per cent) of people aged over 55 reported last receiving workplace training more than 10 years ago, or never at all. They are also the age group most likely to say that the last workplace training they received was not useful for their current role (20 per cent).

As a result, less than half (47 per cent) of older workers think they have all the required skills to succeed at work. This is despite only one fifth planning on retiring soon, according to the survey of 2,000 working adults.

Only one in seven businesses stated they would consider turning to recruiting or retraining older workers or retirees to tackle skills shortages, the research revealed.

The City & Guilds Group is calling on businesses to invest in upskilling valuable older workers or “risk further productivity shortfalls during the recovery period”.

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Kirstie Donnelly, chief executive of the organisation, said: “With the pace of change in businesses only exacerbated by the pandemic, we risk consigning a generation of valuable workers to the scrapheap when many industries are crying out for more workers post-Brexit and as we unlock society after the pandemic.” 

She added that organisations also need to “create opportunities” for older workers to re-enter the workplace through flexible working arrangements and training, otherwise they will be unable to “contribute effectively to the [...] economy in years to come”.

Kevin Rowan, head of organising services and learning at the Trades Union Congress (TUC), agreed that older workers were being “left behind”.

“Access to learning opportunities are an important feature of good quality work and fulfilling lives, including maintaining good mental health,” he said. “Older workers being disadvantaged or prevented from learning is both economically and socially damaging, short-sighted and counterproductive. We need genuine lifelong learning for all.”

Edward Davies, policy director at the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), explained that older workers were missing out on training because the UK was not responding to a changing workforce in which those aged 55 and over were a growing proportion.

“By 2035, over half of all adults in the UK will be over 50 years of age. Ensuring that this growing proportion of older people continue to make an essential contribution to our economy as workers, carers, taxpayers and volunteers is an important question for public policy,” he said.

“Evidence suggests that the UK is not responding to the needs and potential of an ageing workforce. While the employment gap between younger and older workers has decreased over the last two decades, in 2018 less than half of the UK population were in work the year before they were eligible for the state pension.”

Research by the CSJ shows that of the 3.3 million economically inactive people aged 50-64, more than one million did not choose to leave their jobs. Some were made redundant, while others were pushed out due to lack of skills or being unable to balance caring responsibilities with work or illness.

The CSJ, Davies says, is calling on businesses to increase access to training opportunities for older workers.