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Insight: Grey talent - the untapped resource

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13th Feb 2014
Freelance writer Freelance
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The over 50’s make up a third of the UK’s workforce, but are the least likely to be offered training. Yet research shows that you can indeed ‘teach an old dog new tricks’.

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology reported in October 2011: “There is a sharp decrease in training once workers reach their mid-50s. Employers commonly believe that they will not get a good return on their investment in training for older workers.”

In another study [i], older workers themselves were reluctant to undertake further learning activities – believing that ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ and besides, having been in work for so long what else is there for them to learn? This is echoed amongst employers. There may be a belief that older workers have lower cognitive faculties and are simply unable to learn. In fact, this is a tragic myth.

A 2011 report by the Health & Safety Executive found that cognitive and physical performance varies hugely and although it does change with age, advanced age is a poor predictor of either physical or cognitive performance. In other words, the over 50s are no less likely to be effective learners and capable performers than their younger colleagues.

Yet in an academic survey reported by the CIPD, fewer than 3% of over 50s without qualifications had been involved in job related training in the previous month, compared with more than 10% of their younger colleagues. “This is a shocking scenario,” says Robin Hoyle, Senior Consultant with Learnworks Ltd and the author of Complete Training: from recruitment to retirement.

“As retirement is postponed and those over 50 make up a greater proportion of the workforce than ever before, it really is time that learning and development departments started to recognise the needs and aspirations of older workers. It’s an enormous waste that this group is so often overlooked by those organising training initiatives.”

[i] Labour Market and Training Experiences of Older Workers in the West Midlands – Jenkinson,K; Clayton-Hathway, K; Fairbrother, L and Lambley, C. VT Research for West Midlands LSC – 2008

Robin Hoyle believes that it’s time to challenge some long-held beliefs about older workers. He’ll be giving practical hints and tips on how to support ‘grey talent’ in a free, knowledge sharing webinar for the Corporate eLearning Consortium at: 11am on 28th February. You can read a full version of his article Too Old to Train? on the Corporate eLearning website

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