From education to employment

The rise of encore careers: Three quarters of over 45s are willing to invest significant time learning new skills

@Microsoft research today (26 Jan) reveals how over 45s are preparing to overcome pandemic career pressures 

  • More than four in ten over 45s to consider switching careers

  •  Nearly a third are driven to switch by fears around financial stability and over a quarter are concerned about rising state pension age

  • Nearly three quarters (73%) are willing to invest significant time in learning new skills

The pandemic has sparked a wave of career switching among workers over 45 years old in the UK. New research from Microsoft reveals more than four in ten (44%) say they are evaluating a role change or starting a new career, and the average age for a career switch is 52. 

Despite the willingness to change careers and the need for more than three million skilled people in UK technology careers by 2025*, only 23% of workers over 45 years old would consider switching to a career in tech. 

Investing in Digital Skills

To enable a career switch, nearly three quarters of over 45s (73%) say they are willing to invest time in learning new skills, and on average they would commit 3 hours 36 mins a week to reskilling. Crucially, despite the willingness amongst this generation to invest time in upskilling, three fifths (60%) also say they do not know what resources are available to improve their digital skills.

Simon Lambert, Chief Learning Officer, Microsoft, said,

“There has never been a greater need for individuals to invest time in upskilling and developing their digital skills. There is a dangerous misconception that the tech industry is just an industry for the young. The truth is that we need people with a diverse range of experiences, backgrounds and ages. And we need them now to fill the growing skills gap which, left unplugged, will significantly impact the UK’s recovery. I’d encourage anyone who is considering exploring an encore career to look at the opportunities available at Microsoft Digital Skills Hub for advice on how to get started.”

Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, a digital community for the over 50s, said;

“Workers from this demographic are facing a particularly difficult time in the workplace right now: the pandemic has exacerbated subconscious age bias and we are seeing alarming increases in unemployment amongst mid-career workers as a result.

“With the state pension age having risen to 66, someone aged 45 has over two decades in the workplace ahead of them – plenty of time to retrain for one, or several new careers. With the current rate of technological and societal change – something the pandemic has simply accelerated – we’re also seeing increasing numbers of people choosing to invest in themselves and learn new skills to stand them in good stead for the decades of change ahead.

“Investing time into learning digital and technology skills is important for self-development at any age, however one of the biggest barriers for this generation of workers is simply a lack of confidence.  Tailored, accessible courses to help boost the digital skills of mid-life career changers will help to open up new career paths for this audience as we rebuild a future for the economy post-pandemic.”

Retirement concerns

According to the findings, the serious and long-term financial consequences of the pandemic are of greatest concern to this generation of workers. Nearly a third of respondents (32%) are worried about their financial security and more than a quarter (26%) expressed concern about the rising state pension age, which is now 66 years old for both men and women and is driving the desire to switch careers.

Career switching across all industries

It is not just workers in sectors hardest hit by the pandemic that are considering a career switch. The research reveals that over 45s currently employed in Sales, Media & Marketing (58%), Manufacturing & Utilities (54%), Finance (53%) and Travel & Transport (52%) are the most likely to be considering a new career.

The tech industry has traditionally been viewed as being most suited for individuals with a particular skill set and background. However, it’s important that job seekers recognise the huge variety of roles available to people from all walks of life. One such individual who benefited from switching careers at later in life is Carol Milligan*. After 25 years working on the ground for an airline, Carol was made redundant at the age of 48. Following some professional career advice, Carol used her transferable skills and landed a role troubleshooting technical problems for customers at leading travel technology company Amadeus. 

Of those aged over 45 who would consider a career in tech, the research identified their top roles as:

IT Support




Ops Manager


Data Scientist




In response to the global economic crisis, last year Microsoft launched a five-year campaign called Get On 2021 to help 1.5 million people build careers in technology and help 300,000 connect to tech job opportunities. This initiative will help people from all generations get the right skills to thrive in technology careers, and employers can find the right talent to help business success.

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