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The 'grey workforce' is set to grow, forcing graduates to be more innovative in their approach to finding work

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Britain's older workers look set to hold the aces in the workplace of 2020, with graduates being forced to raise their game to achieve the jobs they want in an increasingly competitive employment environment.

According to Friends Provident in its latest Visions of Britain 2020 report, conducted with the Future Foundation, the 'grey workforce' will grow significantly, with an extra two million people aged 55 and above in the workplace (7.16 million people compared with 5.14 million today).

And a lack of talent and skills shortages in the workforce will ensure that these older workers are more valued in the future than today. In addition, the recession has vividly demonstrated the value of experience, and the research predicts employers will place more of a premium on those with years under their belts.

The report also shows that an extra 2.5 million graduates will be forced to resort to more enterprising and innovative approaches to finding work in the businesses of 2020, as the job markets becomes more competitive.

Graduate opportunities in finance and the public sector will decline by 2020, forcing applicants into roles in other sectors such as the creative industries.

Workers who have both dependant children and parents who require care, the 'sandwich' generation, will also come to the fore. These workers will require increased provision for flexible working, and this will affect the jobs they choose.

The findings have profound implications for businesses and HR professionals in particular as they seek to create a productive workplace for workers with a range of very different needs.

Trevor Matthews, chief executive officer of Friends Provident, said: "Our new report highlights significant challenges facing three key groups within the workforce of 2020, and shows that each group will have its own unique requirements within the workplace.  We believe employers need to develop targeted policies and benefit packages for each audience to manage the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce.

"For older employees, there will be more opportunities in the workplace than ever before; for others, finding the right opportunity will be a significant challenge."

 Ian Brinkley, director, The Work Foundation, added: "One of the great shocks of this downturn was the realisation that hardly anyone, particularly in the senior reaches of companies, remembered what the last recession was like. I think a lot of firms have found that the loss of corporate memory from their older and more senior workers is quite a difficult problem, which this report examines."