Better with age? Older workers versus younger workers

Not so long ago a government report concluded that two-thirds of employers felt that 16-year old school leavers were well prepared for work.

Not so long ago a government report concluded that two-thirds of employers felt that 16-year old school leavers were well prepared for work. To my mind, that didn’t sound right. From personal experience I know that hiring graduates, let alone school leavers, can result in some pretty scary discoveries about missing skills.

Small business owners clearly have their reservations too when it comes to the skills and training gap. Our latest poll asked whether young people are trained adequately for the world of work and the overwhelming answer was ‘no’ (46 per cent). Of the 205 respondents, 19 per cent said that basic skills are lacking; 18 per cent had to invest in training and only 17 per cent were happy about the readiness of young people to go on the payroll.

If the soaring pass rates at GCSEs and A-Levels aren’t forging the right skills for the workplace, then perhaps employers should be looking at older workers. The default retirement age of 65, which is due to be abolished by October next year, will open another pool of workers for employers who can contribute some real value to a business through sharing their experience and knowledge.

In late 2006, the number of 55-64 year olds in the UK workforce outnumbered 16-24 year olds for the first time. I suspect that more people in their fifties are going to extend their ambition beyond working for someone else and will look to start their own business.

People like Simeone Salik, who is 68 and has big plans for her affordable, temporary blinds company, Blindsinabox. ‘All the media is interested in is keeping older people in work for other people, rather than for themselves. Older entrepreneurs should be encouraged as often they have less to lose in that they own their own homes and understand financial implications,’ she says.

Salik is a prime example of how the modern-day workforce is evolving – it’s certainly a far cry from the notion of the gentle, cosy retirement of yesteryear. That said, it doesn’t address the skills gap among a younger generation and an education system that, from an employer’s perspective, has long rendered academic achievement virtually meaningless in many sectors.

Younger workers ‘lack key skills’

Entrepreneurs are increasingly employing older workers instead of school or university-leavers whom they believe have a lack of skills, according to research from the Tenon Forum.

Research found that almost a third of small to medium-sized businesses have a ‘strong representation’ of workers aged 50 and above and many use older workers as mentors for younger employees.

Some 22 per cent of entrepreneurial businesses were found to prefer employing older workers over college and school-leavers because they are seen as more ready for work.

Khalid Aziz, entrepreneur and Aziz Corporation chairman, says that his firm is becoming ‘increasingly frustrated’ with younger workers who ‘do not possess basic skills’ and who ‘take work for granted or, worse, treat it as an extension of their social lives’.

Many workers are delaying retirement because of recent age discrimination legislation and pensions fears.

Research by insurance company LV= found that two-thirds of workers aged over 50 are worried about their projected income during retirement.

See also: Younger workers look to leave jobs inside a year – Workers aged between 16 and 28 lack loyalty to their place of employment, finds research.

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