The National Assembly for Wales recently released a report into the employment challenges facing the over fifties in Wales. It feels changes are needed to create more employment opportunities for that age group.
The report shows there are just under 1.2 million people aged 50 and over in Wales and statistically Welsh people in this age group are less likely to be in work than in most other parts of the UK, with nearly 36% of people aged 50 – 64 years currently not in work.
Between November 2014 and February 2015, the Assembly’s Enterprise and Business committee carried out an inquiry into the employment opportunities for people over 50.
The committee heard that long-term unemployment is a real concern in this age group, with 37% of those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance have been doing so for more than 12 months, a greater percentage than any other age group in Wales.
The committee has now made a number of recommendations to the Assembly in order to try and reverse this trend. This same week, Working Links has launched a new initiative to help older people into work in South East Wales.
Working Links launched our 50plus Employability Programme – a voluntary contract which aims to support 340 mature people who want to work find sustainable jobs. Funded by JobCentre Plus, the programme is open to people aged fifty and over and operates in Cardiff and the Vale, Newport, Torfaen, Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil and Caerphilly.
The bespoke programme will allow participants to access intensive, individual support from a personal mentor and a month’s training provision from a dedicated tutor. The provision is customer-led, tailored and flexible so that individual needs can be addressed. They can join small learning groups and find additional support amongst similarly-aged people, experiencing some of the same challenges that they may be facing personally.
This tailored approach is built on our experience working with older long-term unemployed people. We know that a mentoring based approach can really help older people to recognise their own existing skills. These may have been gained in a particular industry or through life experiences or even in the hobby or activity that they enjoy as part of their leisure time.
The job-searching process can be problematic due to the more formal nature of recruitment, the use of technology and the competitiveness of the market and help is required to navigate the process. The same can be said for the interview process and coaching and practice is required with competency-based or evidence-based interview questions. This was very heavily reported in the recent National Assembly enquiry into job opportunities for the over fifties. In Working Links’ experience, both jobseekers and coaches report that intensive tuition in using a computer, job-searching, writing covering letters and CVs and applying online bring a dual benefit of building confidence, that they have successfully mastered new skills, and improving their employability.
Further, we are committed to helping people remain in work. When a customer gets a job, they will be offered six weeks’ telephone support to help settle back into work. That might be simply someone to talk to about the ethics of their work place, transport difficulties or financial worries during a time of transition from benefits to paid employment.
There is of course, as the Assembly report says, real value in employing an older person. Although it is more of a challenge to support our over fifties customers into work, when we get it right, they are more likely to sustain work. They also bring invaluable mentoring skills and a lifetime of experience to their new colleagues.
Deri Ap-Hywel is a Director at Working Links