Viewpoint: A career for all ages?

The over 50s could solve the UK’s talent shortage

Jeremy Hunt has urged older people to return to the workforce, saying that the country needs them and that he is looking at ways to make ‘work worth your while’.

The evidence is compelling; a third of people made redundant during the pandemic were over the age of 50 and I find that really disappointing.

As a recruitment business owner, I have always been passionate about bringing new talent into our industry. I am also a massive advocate for the over 50s in an industry often seen as a young person’s game.

Unfortunately, for more years than I care to remember (I started in recruitment when I was 19 and turn 55 this year) I have witnessed a huge amount of age discrimination in the workplace.

In a recent study conducted by 55/Redefined and the recruitment firm Reed, 65% of over 50s from a sample of more than 4,000 felt their age ‘worked against them’ when applying for a new job.

With a struggling economy awash with job vacancies, the over 50s could solve the UK’s talent shortage. Yet employers seem slow to respond to the huge amount of talent in this age group. So, what is happening and why do I feel these stats are not going to improve any time soon?

Among hiring managers, the most common misconceptions are that older candidates will retire soon, it takes longer to get them up to speed and that there will be a struggle around culture fit.

I must rubbish these sentiments as it is the same for the younger generation. They move around more frequently, require investment in time and training to get them up to speed quickly and there is also no guarantee that they will fit into your culture. In fact, I’ve seen culture fit used as a reason NOT to take young people on more times than I care to remember!

My two recent ‘older’ hires have both shown they are just as capable and productive as their younger counterparts. They provide an invaluable wealth of experience and knowledge to the business and are reliable and dedicated to their work. They also work extremely hard and are incredibly resilient. A real bonus in this ever-changing economic landscape.

If you are in a position to hire, I encourage you not to discount older candidates, whatever your sector. While there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach, we need to ensure our hiring practices are as inclusive as possible, otherwise we are in danger of missing out on a huge swathe of talented workers capable of really making a difference.

I have more energy, drive and purpose than I did in my 30s, plus a wealth of knowledge and experience still relevant in today’s recruitment landscape.

Additionally, it is so important we share our knowledge, wisdom and experience to support our up and coming generations.

Isn’t it time we really started to tackle the issue of ageism once and for all, and judge people on their skills and character, not just their birthdate? After all, age is just a number.

Ruella Crouch is managing partner at Ruella James Recruitment

Image credit | iStock

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