It has been widely reported that we are facing a chronic skills shortage in the UK. The Government has suggested that based on current employer plans we will need to fill 13.5 million job vacancies in the next ten years, but only seven million young people will leave school and college in that time. We have to address the gap left by the younger generation by providing opportunities to unlock the talent in older and more experienced workers – a sector that is currently heavily undervalued.

Several studies over recent years have shown older workers to be more productive and reliable than their younger counterparts1; this comes as no surprise considering their length of experience. However, employers do still favour new graduates over older workers entering at the same level, and, once out of work, the older generation faces a much tougher task in finding opportunities to get back into full-time employment. This might also be the case for return to work mums, ex-military personnel, or people who have taken time out due to injury or to care for loved ones.  

Research from Barclays has revealed that nearly half of UK 50-somethings who have taken time off would like to re-enter the workplace, but 33% feel that their age is holding them back. We strongly believe that age or social circumstance shouldn't be barriers or deciding factors in finding a viable route to employment; reskilling can be achieved at any age. That’s why Barclays launched the Bolder Apprenticeship programme in September last year, demonstrating our commitment to creating career opportunities at any age.

The Barclays Bolder Apprenticeship programme is designed for candidates over the age of 24, including graduates, with no cap on age limit.  For those who have been unemployed for more than 12 months or part-time employed for less than 14 hours per week, this can be the perfect opportunity to get back into the workplace.

The apprenticeship can also help those with little or no experience become ready for the world of work, and is designed to build confidence, experience and skills. It is not just an interim assignment; we offer a permanent role and career pathway across a wide range of sectors, from banking and finance to HR and technology.

This month sees the first cohort of Bolder apprentices graduate, and talking to any one of them shows how important getting their career back on track was to them. For example, Bev Hitchmough was a full-time single parent for 12 years before she joined the Bolder Apprenticeship scheme, after her partner passed away. Like most people who have been out of work for that long, Bev was anxious that she would struggle to find a fulfilling job, but was eager to start a career and challenge herself. Since joining the Bolder scheme she has found a new lease of life and a newly found sense of purpose; she loves knowing that she has a career with longevity that allows her to learn new skills and develop as a person along the way.

It’s time for employers to take action to ensure that there is always a way into work, no matter how old you are, and recognise the unique benefits that an older workforce brings. At Barclays, we’re having ongoing conversations with other businesses to increase collaboration, regardless of sector or industry, to address how we can maximise the valuable contribution older workers make. There really are benefits to hiring a more experienced workforce: their dedication and loyalty; strong worth ethic and communication skills; maturity and ability to act as excellent mentors and role models.

Employers should encourage this untapped older talent back into the labour market. We need to be more effective at attracting them, as well as more flexible with adapting their work schedule to fit their lifestyle and potential caring responsibilities. More than anything, we need to raise awareness amongst the older generation that they are still wanted, still relevant, still hireable and that there are employers out there ready to accommodate their needs.

1) For example, research by Berlin's Max Planck Institute for Human Development

Mike Thompson, Head of Apprenticeships at Barclays

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