10 April 2017

The Skills Commission, last week (6 April 2017), launched a new report focusing on ‘Lifelong Learning for an Ageing Workforce’. The report focuses on the important work done to extend working lives. It draws on a number of publications including Baroness Altmann’s ‘A New Vision for Older Workers: Retain, Retrain, Recruit’ and this government’s Fuller Working Lives strategy. Roles which increasingly require higher qualifications, an ageing workforce with fewer young people to fill vacancies, and uncertainty regarding labour supply following the UK’s decision to leave the EU form the rationale of the report.

In particular, the report focuses on the retraining aspect of Baroness Altmann’s report. Given planned rises in State Pension Age it is crucial for so-called ‘older workers’ (otherwise defined as the over-50s in government papers) to refresh and update their skills to remain competitive in the labour market. It identifies catalysts to early labour market exit – such as caring responsibilities, ill-health and redundancy from declining industries – and makes policy recommendations to employers, learning providers and the government in order to support those susceptible to early exit. Alongside these recommendations, the report outlines the benefits of retaining, retraining and recruiting older workers – both for business and the economy – as well as the benefits of retraining and remaining in the labour market for older workers themselves.

The report recommends the following recommendations:

  • Recommendation 1 To combat the likelihood of skills shortages when skilled older workers retire, employers should consider implementing mentoring schemes alongside their apprenticeship programmes.
  • Recommendation 2 – Facilitate ‘transferable parental leave’ so that older workers in technical and professional training who have young dependants can transfer their parental leave to a grandparent or family member.
  • Recommendation 3 – Improve the capacity of employment services (including Jobcentre Plus) to provide tailored advice to older workers.
  • Recommendation 4 – The Commission welcomes the Government’s announcement of ‘return to work support’ and encourages government to work with employers, learning providers and professional HR bodies, such as CIPD and the Institute of Recruiters (IOR), to signpost available funding and support. This needs to be visible both within and outside of learning institutions in places that older people would see them such as libraries, GP surgeries and Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
  • Recommendation 5 – Employers should incorporate Mid-Life Career Reviews into regular, team-wide appraisals in order to encourage dialogue about training needs later in life, and SMEs should be provided with government-funded advisors to carry these out. Simultaneously, age sensitivity training should be incorporated into management training.
  • Recommendation 6 – Learning providers should rethink the content, marketing and delivery of courses to improve their appeal to older workers. They should also expand their offerings to include soft skills training and confidence-building workshops.
  • Recommendation 7 – Publicise the National Insurance exemption for workers after State Pension Age.
  • Recommendation 8 – When piloting new funding streams, such as the new part-time maintenance loans announced in the Spring Budget, government should investigate innovative methods of signposting funding to assess the impact on loan uptake amongst over-50s.
  • Recommendation 9 – The Institute for Apprenticeships – in collaboration with the Department for Work and Pensions – should consider areas and demographics where additional support to employers would encourage them to hire older apprentices.
  • Recommendation 10 – The Education and Skills Funding Agency should review the costs to learning providers of supporting older workers to retrain and stay in employment. Additional support should be given where appropriate.
  • Recommendation 11 – As part of the Government’s recent budget announcement of £40 million for ‘lifelong learning pilots’, we call for greater collaboration between the Department for Education and the Department for Work and Pensions. They should work together to oversee pilots by Jobcentre Plus, the National Citizen’s Service and others to look into the feasibility of learning accounts and their effectiveness in directing workers towards in-demand roles.
  • Recommendation 12 – Create a joint minister for lifelong learning between the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Education.
  • Recommendation 13 – Local Enterprise Partnerships should set up working groups to devise strategies on supporting employers with the realities of an ageing workforce, while also being involved in the analysis of labour market opportunities.
  • Recommendation 14 – Further Education colleges should consider appointing a Vice-Principal for lifelong learning, responsible for promoting the uptake of courses among older workers.
  • Recommendation 15 – Big businesses should aim to appoint a business champion in their organisation to encourage best practice in their sector. Ultimately, the aim would be to have a business champion representing each industry.
  • Recommendation 16 – The National Apprenticeship Awards should consider implementing an upskilling category for older workers who have retrained and excelled in their new vocations.

To read the full report click here.

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