Don't let older workers fall behind

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It’s important for our future success that we ensure older workers are not left behind when it comes to training

Training and keeping skills up-to-date is essential in helping every individual succeed in their career. With technological changes seemingly happening faster all the time, failing to keep knowledge fresh can mean getting left behind. Recently the AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) carried out research that found many older workers are more reluctant to undertake training and they are more at risk of being left behind than any other age group.

Our research looked into the benefits to the UK economy that can be brought by more active reskilling of the workforce. A key finding was that a huge share of older workers don’t undertake training, with 26% of people aged 55 and over saying that they would not want to do any training at their stage of life, compared to 8% of 45- to 54-year-olds.

Older staff may be reluctant to do training, feeling that they have already done a lot of learning in their lives and looking forward to winding down into retirement. However, the idea of training while young and then staying in one job for life is no longer a reality for most people. Higher life expectancies also mean that many workers may need to keep working past when they would have retired in earlier times. The challenge is to ensure people can still participate and contribute in the later stages of their working lives.

To help ensure that older members of staff can continue to succeed in their roles, and avoid them falling behind in technical knowledge, HR professionals need to be aware of the ‘too old to learn’ mentality that can develop. We must guide older learners to participate in training and career development activities.

Firstly you can provide training specifically targeted at the 55- to 64-year-old age group, which fits in with full- and part-time work patterns. Our research showed that the majority of over 55s would like to study in their spare time so that they only have to make a minimum sacrifice from their existing life commitments.

Offering vocational training will also help; we found that for those who would consider training, a vocational qualification would be their favoured option. This is no surprise: learning by doing can be more interesting than solely book-based learning, and interesting methods will always be more likely to motivate reluctant people to want to learn.

The ageing population in the UK and many other developed economies is growing, and people are having to work for longer than they used to. An older workforce can be a valuable asset for any organisation, bringing crucial experience and knowledge. One of the principles the AAT is committed to is providing people with the opportunity to reskill at any stage of their professional development. HR professionals must also subscribe to this principle to ensure that older workers at their organisations are kept up-to-date. This benefits both the employee's personal success and your organisation’s future.

Olivia Hill is chief HR officer at the AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians)

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