There can be few HR departments or recruitment consultancies in which the regular Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) report Employment Schemes Official Statistics is not eagerly awaited. This time, the DWP has outdone itself, bringing us the startling news that around 57,000 over 50s have been on work experience since 2011. It seems that older workers have the greatest increase in take-up of the government’s work experience schemes.
There are those who greet this development as a marvellous thing. Alistair McQueen, who runs savings and retirement at Aviva, apparently thinks that an extended working life should be supported and celebrated.
By whom, we might ask? Certainly not by most 50-year-olds, whose celebrations at the thought of being in the workforce for another 20 years have so far been somewhat muted.
McQueen thinks we should ditch our old-fashioned belief that you should learn things when young. He goes on to point out that the rise in older workers doing work experience is happening when the number of over-50s in work is at its highest ever.
McQueen appears to run a pensions company. Has it perhaps passed him by, in his busy life, that no one is getting their pension at the age they thought they would and that they are being forced to stay at work longer? That spontaneous outbreaks of joy at the prospect of a longer working life, such as street parties, are hardly ever seen?
Apparently, it has. As far as he is concerned, the bright sunlit uplands lie ahead for the over-50s.
Having told a group of people that they must work longer, the government’s assistance is only for those who are out of work and is at the very cheapest and lowest-skilled end of the employment market. Many older workers would like to learn something or improve their prospects, but where are the opportunities to take advanced engineering degrees or learn a new programming language?
To give the government its due, it has a business champion for older workers. This is Andy Briggs, chief executive of none other than Aviva UK. We can all be assured that if anyone needs hosing down with double-strength corporate complacency laced with a good dose of Pollyanna-type cheerfulness, the government has it in hand.
To conclude, let’s revisit the number we started with: 57,000 over 50s on work experience since 2011. This is pitiful. Why any government would think that it is a brilliant success is a mystery.
If we ignore 2017, this is just over 11,000 people a year in a country that is trapped in a low-wage, low-productivity cycle.
Clearly, the older workers czar and the DWP are inhaling the same happy gas; however, it is good to know that they are happy in their work, cheering us all on to greater efforts in the workplace.
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