Looks like more support for all adults to achieve fuller working lives

23 June 2014

I’m naturally curious. There is always another question to ask, more to find out and extra detail to understand. Some of my earliest memories are of taking alarm clocks to pieces and ending up with a box of bits. Sometimes you just need to know how things work or don’t work. It’s the same for me with statistics and data. The headlines figures are interesting, but I need to know the detailed workings.

I’m pleased that unemployment and employment figures are still moving in the right direction. Last week’s headlines of a ‘large increase in employment and a large fall in unemployment’ are great news for people, businesses and the economy. But what about my curiosity? What do the details behind the headlines tell us? There is always a more complex story supporting the main figures. Take a much closer look at the numbers and you see that not everyone is benefiting. Some people are being left behind. Whilst the headlines remain true for most groups, this is not the case for unemployed women aged 50 and over. This June, 157,000 women aged 50 and over were unemployed, a figure that has not changed in the last 12 months. Worryingly this is the only age group for whom unemployment has not fallen. Not quite fitting with the headlines.

This is not a surprise. Evidence consistently shows how people aged 50 and over are disadvantaged, especially in the workforce. NIACE has worked to tackle this through its Mid-life Career Review Pilots, which developed a range of ways to offer career/life reviews. During the pilots, reviews were carried out for over 3,000 people mostly aged between 45 and 64. They covered employment, training and health issues and were designed for those out of work, facing redundancy, wanting to adapt to a new way of working (part-time or self-employed) or for those wanting to stay in the job they have. Early evaluation found that four-fifths of advisers said their clients had improved confidence or motivation to explore career options and make changes, following the review.

With the publication of the Government’s Fuller Working Lives – framework for action it was good to see that our ideas are being put into action. The Government plans to incorporate the lessons learned from the Mid-life Career Review Pilots and integrate the ‘50+ delivery model’ into existing partner practice, to ensure older workers can access an in-depth career review for the first time. A much needed opportunity for the 157,000 unemployed women aged 50+. A great start, but we must build on this and go much further. NIACE wants to see a new Personal Skills Account for all adults linked to an entitlement to career reviews at key transition points such as, redundancy, returning from long-term caring and in mid-life.

Whilst I never did manage to put the alarm clock back together and had a box of bits in the cupboard for years, it is encouraging that there is more support for all adults to achieve fuller working lives. We all need to be able to make informed choices throughout our lives about our own development and how we invest in it.