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Ageism in the workplace


While it seems counter intuitive, as older applicants are likely to bring valuable experience to any role, ageism is a serious barrier to finding a job. Studies cited in the August 2015 edition of People Management indicate that candidates under the age of 30 are 4.25 times more likely to secure an interview, though the statistics vary greatly across industries, as well as between genders. It is worth noting that selecting a younger applicant over an older competitor based purely on age is in fact illegal under the Equality Act 2010.

Before exploring how employment agencies are working to remedy these worrying statistics, it’s worth investigating the stereotypes and beliefs which have led to such a serious age imbalance in recruitment. In some roles with an emphasised physical aspect, such as factory work, it has been speculated that perceptions that older people are not physically suitable for such roles may lead to increased rejections. Other sources suggest that outdated skills may play a role, particularly with regard to computer literacy. The Government Accountability Office in the USA reported that other barriers to employment among older job seekers include reluctance to hire candidates who have received higher salaries in past jobs. The belief that older people are likely to feel uncomfortable being managed by younger bosses was found to play a role, while the expectation of retirement was also found to be significant.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom! Several employment agencies have taken it upon themselves to help get experienced, older job seekers into appropriate roles at companies in need of their expertise. TAEN, Skilled People and Forties People realised there was a gap in the market, and have set about matching the skills and experience possessed by older workers with suitable vacancies.

TAEN, an acronym for The Age and Employment Network, was recently acquired by the Shaw Trust, a national charity for employment, skills and learning. The TAEN website hosts a range of interesting information, including statistics which may be of interest to older job seekers. TAEN launched 50+ Works: A guide for older job seekers at the start of 2015 with the support of the European Social Fund. This guide provides useful insight into the barriers older job seekers must overcome in seeking employment, as well as helpful tips for navigating the workforce for older people and the modern job market. The labour market and best practice in applying for new roles has changed over the years, meaning that CVs and resumes which may have been highly effective 30 years ago are discarded today at first glance.

Forties People place an emphasis on the work and life experience, and the confidence which comes with this that older workers can offer companies. They highlight that older people can provide balance and stability in the workforce, while their confidence and wisdom can be beneficial in terms of conflict resolution. The agency provides a range of tips for each stage of the job seeking process, from preparation for looking for vacancies, to coping with anxiety related to interviews.

SkilledPeople.com aims to highlight the talents and skills of job seekers above the age of 50. They believe that companies should be open to their candidates as numerous studies indicate that improvements in diversity, including age diversity, leads directly to increased profit. While many companies look to bring in fresh blood, it should supplement, rather than replace, the experience and industry knowledge that comes from decades of working. In order to achieve this role, SkilledPeople.com offers companies a range of services for promoting age diversity within their organisations. SkilledPeople also focuses on providing older workers for specific projects, with emphasis on projects undertaken by small and medium enterprises.

These three organisations are doing truly great things in their mission to dispel stereotypes and build this niche segment of the labour market. It will be exciting to see how they progress in the future, and what they can achieve in the coming years.