Older workers are the fastest-growing age group taking up the government’s work experience opportunities, according to data from the Department for Work and Pensions.
The Employment Schemes Official Statistics report found that 57,000 workers over the age of 50 have benefited from work experience since 2011. In May 2017 1,300 people aged 50 and above were estimated to have started work experience, compared with just 20 in January 2011 – a 65 times increase.
When it comes to other age groups, those aged 18 to 24 experienced a 27 times higher take up, rising from 90 in January 2011 to 2,430 in May 2017. People aged between 25 and 49 showed a 45 times greater take up, rising from 20 to 1,300 in the same time period.
The government’s work experience scheme was introduced in January 2011, providing opportunities for unemployed claimants of Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, those in the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance, and some other out of work benefits, to experience the workplace.
The report found that more over-50s have benefited from work experience since January 2016 than over the preceding five years combined.
Alistair McQueen, head of savings and retirement at Aviva, said that the report suggests the concept of work experience is evolving. “Based on today’s data, it’s time to ditch any hackneyed beliefs that learning is the preserve of the young,” he said. “The world of work is changing. As we live longer our working lives are also extending.
“The boom in older workers taking up work experience coincides with the number of over-50s in work hitting an all-time high. A longer working life should be celebrated and supported. Older workers not only bring valuable experience to the workforce but longer working lives are also helping to pay for a longer retirement.”
Patrick Thomson, senior programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, told HR magazine that he was not surprised by these results. “Many older workers leave the labour market before they are ready, often because of issues like redundancy, ill health, or the pressures of caring responsibilities,” he said. “Given that we know older workers have more difficulty than any other group in returning to work, it is no surprise that an increasing number of people are taking up work experience and other opportunities to broaden their skills in later life.
“We know from our own research that opportunities for learning and development are something older workers really value. However, it is crucial that those opportunities are properly suited to the individuals involved and that they have choice and control in how they do this.”