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Case study: How NCVO is boosting over-50s’ entry into charity work

A third of people over 50 believe they have not been hired because of their age, research suggests

For people aged 50 and over, a new programme is helping break down barriers into charity work, the programme’s founder explained to HR magazine. 

Funded by NCVO, a membership community for charities in England, Charity Interns offers six internships for candidates over 50 who want to get into charity work but have faced barriers getting into the sector.

Maya Bhose, founder of the project, struggled to get into the voluntary sector after being made redundant from her corporate job of 25 years.

“I thought it wasn’t going to be hard to find a job in a charity because I’ve got great skills and I’m sure they would want to have me, but it didn’t happen,” said Bhose.

She realised her age could have been preventing her from breaking into the industry.

After an unsuccessful interview at NCVO, Bhose pitched the internship programme to its chief executive Sarah Vibert as a way to bridge the skills shortages in the charity sector.

“I’m interested in people with skills who want to get into the charity sector and I just need a bit of help to do it,” she told Vibert.

Read more: Ageism most commonly experienced at work, study finds

The pilot started in November 2023 and is set to run until April 2024.

The programme placed six candidates (this cohort is all women) across five different charities: Alzheimer Society, Age UK, Age International, British Heart Foundation and Disability Equality Scotland.

Each of them is in different roles, from fundraising to volunteering, political campaigning and membership strategy. 

The candidates are referred to as associates, rather than interns. 


Bhose identified that there was an issue with vacant roles in the charity sector.

“There are a considerable number of charities that have vacant positions,” she said. 

She suggested that this was due to employers mainly looking at candidates who had worked in the industry before.

“Because the workload is heavy, it’s only natural that you would veer towards hiring someone who had already worked in the charity sector because it would take less of your time to get someone up to speed, even though in the longer term, having the skills [needed for the job] would definitely be a benefit,” she added.

Skills shortages

Bhose commented that associates currently taking part in the Charity Interns programme could go some way to addressing the sector’s skills gap.

She also noted that employers in the voluntary sector need to look beyond the candidates that they would typically hire to fill vacancies.

“It's a case of changing the mindset to look beyond the talent pool you normally look at,” she said.

Read more: Are misconceptions towards apprenticeships holding businesses back?

Recruiting people over 50

According to research from the Centre for Ageing Better (January 2024) a third of people over 50 think they have been turned down for a job because of their age.

“I’d spoken to people in their 30s who had been brave enough to admit that they wouldn’t hire someone their parents’ age because they wouldn’t know what to do with them,” Bhose commented.

“When I started working it was a given that you’d be hired by someone who was older than you and [your manager] basically taught you. That’s not leadership anymore. 

“Now it’s about creating the right environment so that all the talents of all of your team can be used. When you bring someone into your team who has worked for many more years, it's a catalyst for looking at your leadership skills.”

Misconceptions around older workers are also preventing this talent pool from being able to access work or switch careers, Bhose noted.

“There are lots of misconceptions that there’s an expiry date on experience – that people’s skills aren’t going to be relevant anymore. 

“But the UK workforce is ageing. There’s a large proportion of over-50s who want to work but they just can’t find work,” she said.

Bhose intends to continue the programme independent from NCVO, and has already confirmed the first charity that the next cohort could be placed with.

"I do think it’s going to become a business now," she said.


People in the current cohort have no guarantee that they will get a job at the end of their internship.

“But all of them are now actively applying for jobs, and they’re getting interviews, which they never would have been able to do before,” Bhose explains.

“For me, success would be that they all find permanent work, not necessarily where they were placed but that they do go on to find permanent work.

“It really has changed their lives. They’re all absolutely proving my point that skills are transferable.”