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Older workers hold the key to building a more productive workforce

Older workers hold the key to building a more productive workforce

29 May 2015

John Kerr, Operations Director at training and consultancy specialist Develop Training, says Britain will grind to a halt unless we harness the skills of retiring and recently retired workers.

There is a looming skills crisis in the UK, and nowhere is this more evident than in the utilities sector, those vital services that provide the country's water and power. The key to keeping these vital services running productively lies with older workers.

The rate at which the ageing workforce is dwindling in water and power industries is alarming, and as these highly experienced workers leave the sector, they are taking the skills to install and maintain vital services with them. The number of people exiting the workplace each year far exceeds those joining, and by 2023, it is estimated we will need 200,000 new recruits to replace the black hole left by retirees and other leavers.

Unless this crisis is tackled, the country will grind to a halt without heat, light or water, and these are not the only sectors where a lack of skills threatens our future. Engineering and construction face similar problems thanks to decades of under investment in training due to recession and other factors. The only answer is to train more people to take the place of the multitudes of leavers, and the key to that is older workers.

At Develop Training, we are running a number of initiatives with major utilities companies to harness the skills of retiring and recently retired people by training them to train the next generation. Frankly, apprenticeship programmes and youthful energy won't keep the country going unless the practical knowledge and skills to do the work are passed on. So those who can do must teach if we are to have a productive workforce in years to come.

One example is that Develop Training is working with one major gas company to take people who are being encouraged to retire from their tough, physical jobs at 55 to come to work with us on a part time basis. It is an outlet for their experience that they have built over years in the industry. Because the training is vocational, they don't need qualifications. It is all about tapping into their experience.

Having mentors for young people is another way we can bring people who are retired back into the workplace. Working with a major infrastructure business, we are encouraging the country's recent retirees to become mentors to assist with apprenticeship programmes to encourage young people to come into the workforce.

In the utility sector in general, it is now widely recognised that with the age profile,  retirees are one of the few  places to get trainers with invaluable experience. You can see the result of this at almost any Develop Training vocational course. The average age of our training associates is 67, and we have two employees in their 70s.

This arrangement is good for the public, the industry, the training sector and retirees too. The kind of training work we provide allows them to continue to make a contribution to the country with the added benefits of flexible hours and a top up for their pensions.

For more information on how DTL can help with your skills shortages, please call a member of our experienced team on 0800 876 6708.

This article was written for Edge Magazine.