By Judith Davey
In my recent research on workforce ageing in New Zealand, almost everyone I spoke to agreed that labour and skill shortages will become more pressing in the near future and recruitment will become harder. So I then asked: Is training and re-training older workers a possible solution to skill shortages? There was overwhelming agreement, but with some qualifications about the type of work involved and the willingness of older workers to undertake training. “It depends on individual receptiveness and willingness. Some workers don’t want to do anything different.”
Older workers may have physical limitations and cannot continue heavy work, even if training is available. Some employers thought that mental ability may also be a problem when it came to IT training, but this was contested by others who said that older workers only needed appropriate encouragement. Many lack higher educational attainment, making further learning challenging. There were also reservations about the usefulness of formal courses, suggesting that re-training on the job was preferable. Given these considerations, some employers recommended training related to motivation rather than job content alone. Older workers need the self-confidence to demonstrate their value, marketability and desire to work, perhaps in non-traditional ways. “Older people have already got 80% through being at work and only need 20% to top up.”
Who is responsible?
The candidates were the government, employers (sometimes through ITOs) and the workers themselves. Most respondents thought that government has a role to play, especially to provide information on needs and benefits; to identify and respond to gaps in skills; and to provide encouragement to employers to provide training. Many advocated a joint approach, suggesting: “Tax breaks for employers, training subsidies for all workers – encourage employers to take responsibility”. “We need a policy and practice framework with employers involved and subsidised”. Some respondents called for three-way responsibility between government, employers and individual workers, sometimes bringing in unions and other stakeholders.
There was criticism of how the formal tertiary system is operating and its lack of interest in older learners. One respondent said: “The public system is oriented to funding full qualifications and setting up young people up in careers. Older workers need more tailored, small packages of learning, allowing them to adapt, but these are challenging to supply.” Another criticism was that government does not keep abreast of what training is needed.
But the most common response on responsibility for training and retraining was that it should be shared between the employer and the employee, driven by business needs. “Here it is shared between employee (who raises issues and asks for options) and manager (who takes note of performance).” Some respondents felt that older employees themselves should take the initiative and applauded examples where this happened. Professional firms may fund learning to keep employees current, leaving the responsibility to them. On-going upskilling to retain certification was mentioned in relation to accountancy, medicine and nursing.
Do older workers need special conditions for training?
The answers were mixed. Respondents who did not agree said that age alone should not be a factor; that the most important thing was an individual approach to learning. Technology was often mentioned, as a topic and in terms of course delivery. “We must be careful not to alienate older workers with too much technology.” “Generally older people have challenges around technology. They need accommodation and longer to learn, but it is not impossible.” This suggests a different pace for courses; more one-to-one attention; small group work; discussion; courses spread over longer periods; and case studies attuned to personal experience.
Payback to employers
Will employers invest in education and training for older workers if they can’t see them staying long enough for this to benefit the business financially? Most of the employers interviewed did not think there was a cut-off age beyond which it would not be worthwhile to provide such opportunities. Instead, they said it would depend on the individual abilities of the worker and what they could contribute. “It’s an individual thing, some are atrophied at 50; some are marvellous at 70.”
AA FINAL REPORT
The conservation model of human resource management requires employers to provide education and training, career development and guidance and pre-retirement education for all their workers. Many employers still subscribe to the myths that older workers are less able to learn and present a lower return on training investment than younger employees. But if employers do not facilitate their access to education and retraining or encourage age-appropriate methods in workplace training programmes, then this will reinforce stereotypes about older workers and discourage their retention and employability. There is extensive literature showing that, while older workers may require different learning environments and sometimes take longer to pick up skills, they are capable of both learning and applying new knowledge in the work environment (Warr, 1994; Robson, 2001; Alpass and Mortimer, 2007).
“Is training and re-training older workers a possible solution to skill shortages?” Almost all the employers and key informants replied positively to this question and some were emphatic. But there were qualifications related to the type of work involved and the willingness of older workers to undertake training. Several employers said that their older workers were in very specialised areas, which made it hard to find other opportunities even if they are offered retraining. ”We have a very traditional workforce. Most can only do the jobs they are in.” “It depends on individual receptiveness and willingness. Some workers don’t want to do anything different.” “We try to reskill and widen their skill base, but it is challenging.”
Older workers may have physical limitations and cannot continue to do heavy work, even if training is available. Some employers thought that mental ability may also be a problem when it came to IT training, but this was contested by others, suggesting that older workers only needed the appropriate encouragement. Many older people now in the workforce lack higher educational attainment, which may make it more challenging for them to contemplate further education. There were also reservations about the usefulness of formal courses, suggesting that re-training on the job was preferable.
Given these considerations, some employers suggested that the training needed was more related to motivation than to job content. Older workers need the willingness and self-confidence to demonstrate their value, desire to work, perhaps in non-traditional ways, and marketability. There were respondents, however, who felt that the problems being faced by older workers could not be solved through training initiatives. “Some older workers do need it but don’t assume that old means needing retraining. Turning builders to project managers does not always work.”
Where professional work is involved, on-going training and upskilling may be required to retain certification. This was mentioned in relation to accountancy, medicine and nursing. The respondents who were least in favour of retraining pointed out that many aspects of their work are not changing, in content or in the culture which surrounds them, e.g. in retailing.
Responsibility for education and training
The candidates suggested for responsibility were the government, employers (sometimes through ITOs) and the workers themselves. The responsibility of government related to the roles of the MBIE and the Ministry of Social Development: “to keep people in work, lower health costs and benefit dependency”. There was criticism, however, of how the formal education system is operating and the tertiary system’s lack of interest in older learners, especially the universities. A respondent from a government agency said: “The public system is oriented to funding full qualifications and setting up young people up in careers. Older workers need more tailored, small packages of learning, allowing them to adapt, but these are challenging to supply.”
Systems of training and qualifications which recognise prior learning would be beneficial for older workers, but there is “not a lot in it for providers”. There was support for adult apprenticeship schemes, calling for their extension, or something like them. Another criticism of government was that it did not respond in a timely manner in the training area and keep abreast of what is needed. There were suggestions that government could help by encouraging employers, leading into the discussion of joint responsibility.
The response of employers in the education and training area is likely to be driven by the needs of their businesses. Employers are able to operate through ITOs, although there was some criticism of these organisations. Some respondents felt that employees themselves should take the initiative on retraining. Examples were given of older workers who had retrained themselves and this was praised. Professional firms may fund learning to keep employees current, leaving the responsibility to them.
The most common response on responsibility for retraining was that it should be shared between the employer and the employee. “Here it is shared between employee (who raises issues and asks for options) and manager (who takes note of performance).” Some respondents called for joint responsibility between employers and government or three way responsibility between government, employers and individual workers, sometimes bringing in unions and other stakeholders.
Special conditions for training older workers
New Zealand Employers Federation (1998) and the EEO Trust (White, 1999) were recommending special approaches in training programmes for older people in the late 1990s. These should refer to and build on existing knowledge; involve learning by doing; be directly applicable and suitably paced. They also emphasised the need to build self confidence in older learners.
When asked if older workers require special conditions or different approaches for education and training, the answers from the Active Ageing interviews were mixed. Respondents who did not agree said that age alone should not be a factor; that training should be based rather on the needs of the organisation; or that the most important factor was an individual approach to learning.
The special conditions/approaches which were suggested by respondents often concerned technology as a topic and in terms of course delivery. Several mentioned discomfort with on-line learning and technophobia among older workers. “We must be careful not to alienate older workers with too much technology.” “Generally older people have challenges around technology. They need accommodation and longer to learn, but it is not impossible.” This suggests a different pace for courses; perhaps more one-to-one attention; small group work; discussion; courses spread over longer periods; and case studies attuned to the experience of older workers.
Differences between the age-groups in thinking and mind-set may suggest that they should be trained separately. “Recent school leavers are used to the educational environment, for older workers it may be 30-40 years since their last formal education.” “Older people need to understand the background before getting technical skills.” This suggests, as was found in previous research (Davey, 2008b) that older workers may need a boost in confidence if they are to be successful in retraining and further education. “Older people have already got 80% through being at work and only need 20% to top up.”
Will employers invest in education and training for older workers if they cannot see them staying long enough for this to benefit the business financially? Most of the employers interviewed did not think there was an age beyond which it would not be worthwhile to provide an employee with such opportunities. “Updating to the latest cash register, that’s a quick return in a couple of hours.” They tended to say that it would depend on the individual abilities of the worker and what they could contribute. “It’s an individual thing, some are atrophied at 50; some are marvellous at 70.”
Most respondents thought that government has a role in the area of adult retraining, especially at an overall level, to inform on needs and benefits; to identify and respond to gaps in skills identified by business; and provide encouragement to employers to provide training. However, many felt that a joint approach was preferable, with financial help from government: “Tax breaks for employers, training subsidies for all workers – encourage employers to take responsibility”. “We need a policy and practice framework with employers involved and subsidised. Government and employers working together with unions“.
A lot of criticism was directed at recent cuts to adult and continuing education in the community; to beneficiary training opportunities; and age restrictions on student loans and allowances. There was recognition that not all education and training is employment-related. “We need wide educational opportunities. Policy is going in the opposite direction with these pull backs.” Cuts in funding for adult education give the message: “that older people are less valued and are contradictory to the required environment.” “Are we meeting the needs of the mature workforce? We are hindering older workers in making choices about workforce participation.”
Justification for investment in the training and retraining of older workers can be found throughout the international literature. One report concluded by saying that training an older worker will bring returns to their employer, training a young worker will benefit their competitor. Given these advantages, why are older workers often overlooked when it comes to training?
The special condition/approaches which were suggested by respondents often concerned technology as a topic and in terms of course delivery. Several mentioned of discomfort with on-line learning and technophobia among older workers. “We must be careful not to alienate older workers with too much technology. We could train them in the way they are used to, wind the clock back a bit.” “Older workers are nervous about computers if have never used them. But if they see them as just a tool they are fine.” “Generally older people have challenges around technology. They need accommodation and longer to learn, but it is not impossible.” This suggests a different pace for courses for older people; perhaps more one-to-one attention; small group work, discussion, courses spread over longer periods; and case studies attuned to their experience.
Differences between the age-groups in thinking and mind-set may suggest that they should be trained separately – “like teaching adolescents and adults must be different”. “Older people need to understand the background before getting technical skills.” “Recent school leavers are used to the educational environment, for older workers it may be 30-40 years since their last formal education.” This suggests, as was found in previous research (Davey 2007?) that older workers may need a boost in confidence if they are to be successful in retraining and further education. “Older people have already got 80% through being at work and only need 20% to top up.”
The question of return on investment for employers has already been raised. Will they invest in education and training for older workers if they cannot see them staying long enough for this to benefit the business financially? Most of the employers interviewed did not think there was an age beyond which it would not be worthwhile to provide an employee with education/training opportunities. They tended to say that it would depend not on age but on the individual abilities of the worker and what they could contribute. “It’s an individual thing, some atrophied at 50; some are marvellous at 70.” They suggested reasons for not using age as a barrier to training. Professional development is on-going and required for some jobs. Because policies change and technology is updated, people need to keep pace. “Updating to the latest cash register, that’s a quick return in a couple of hours.”
Many employers still believe that older workers lack the ability to learn and provide a lower return on training investment than younger employees. But if employers do not facilitate access to or encourage age-appropriate methods in workplace training programmes, then this just buys into the stereotypes about older workers and discourages their retention and employability. There is extensive evidence that, while older workers may require different training environments and sometimes take longer to pick up skills, they are capable of both learning and applying new knowledge in the workplace.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING NZIM quotes
Is retraining OW a possible solution to skills shortages?
33 – No, regular reviews with all staff to ask about training asking them what they want to do – do you want any training? Need to indicate interest. 3 years ago revamped how room serviced with input from staff into the manual, gave them ownership. Regularly updated. Other manuals have questions and photos – all in house, all workers get one.
15 – Provisos – horticulture, don’t survive if don’t have interest in plants, also physical aspects. Can do more with equipment which makes job more efficient. Keep working on this – can hire equipment.
123 – Yes, redeployment or retraining options, build on strengths. Not starting again. Don’t disregard what they already have. Can move down. People I know near R have moved down to different jobs. Seems a shame if can use skills in other ways.
88 – Yes, support them. Never too old to learn – follow own philosophy, I like to learn. Always consider applications for training for anyone. Diploma in Mental Health for lady in her 70s.
34 – Come from general nursing to know more about palliative care, initial RN training done elsewhere. Health care assistant and younger an semi-skilled and trained here.
98 – yes in call centre, often taking a break from other work, They get some experience and then move on or fit work into their lifestyles – well paid.
53 – Definitely, workplace constantly changing, technology driven.
157 – Not really, already skilled and well educated. May lack senior capability – experience, relationships, leadership, soft competencies. Get this by working with them. Need to work in a difficult environment – not built by ET but by coaching and mentoring about what works and what doesn’t.
72 – yes, would help but YW getting attention
110 – Vital. Older workers now 40-70 missed out in earlier decades when work skewed to hand-on. Many functionally illiterate but literacy coming more to the fore and increasingly needed – also workplace communication and technology. More specialisation, rise of service sector.
116 – Yes
100 – For sure. I am slower than 20 y ago in picking up concepts. But OW have world and life skills.
162 – definitely, especially with computers. Willingness to accept the cpomupter age will be the test.
99 – absolutely essential
3 – yes, as a generalisation
11 – yes, if they are willing.
59 – Perhaps no. People leave because of expectations – what they think society expects.
Are OW currently discriminated against in E/T?
33 – probably are, but I don’t discriminate. Up to individual, if individual willing to take on new initiatives, if not, adjust training or try another method.
15 – yes, if people in their 50s applied for position just filled would ask for medical examination. You cant get away from the physical aspects of the work. Have been caught before. Would not look for OW and given them training because of the health angle. If it was a good worker and they struggled with the physical stuff we would do what we can to keep them and put them with a YW.
123 – Possibly, we don’t. All have performance reviews and training analysis, 6 monthly and annually. Would not hesitate to send OW (50 plus0 on a $2000 course.
88 – Yes, in general.
34 – imagine it is easy to do, but not here. Workers aged 60 go on courses and conferences because they are interested.
98 – Not here – none in my experience except personal prejudice. Was in Telecom 30 years, left in 2001, mainly in IT.
53 – Not here or anywhere I have worked in my experience.
157 – probably are.
111 – yes in some organisations
72 – younger ones are more keen. OW reluctant, don’t put their hands up. Discussed at 4 monthly meetings.
164 – Not here. OW more likely to stay 5 years of more. YW just out of university stay about 2 years if not given a challenge. Have flexible approach to ET. Look to managers and staff through annual appraisal and review as basis to identify T opportunities.
109 – no same opportunities. Any study good for company. Study time, fees – given generally.
110 – DK, used to be. Seems not as clear cut as before. Hesitant to claim it happens now.
116 – Yes, instinctively have barriers, e.g. of 53 yo trying to get a job. But there is no different by age in this company. All staff go to same courses.
100 – Anecdotally hear this, but not here. If no OW it is because we don’t get the applicants. Apprentice in bakery aged 37.
162 – imagine it could but not here. We offer same training opportunities to all. OW unwilling to leave jobs because of discrimination, know from friends.
99 – yes they have been, but not here. Outlook that people cant change. I have had to change from command leadership.
3- suspect so, not policy here.
11 – not here, strongly believe in ET. Employees request and we never say no. Sent chef to dinner in Martinborugh and regularly to high level restaurants. I general could be based on age.
59 – yes but should not happen. Need to engage people in learning and development throughout life. If they retraing they could be retained in workforce.
Why would employers discriminate?
33 – might think it is too hard, perception that employee is unwilling.
15 – no answer
123 – might consider return on investment.
88 – Think it a waste of money as OW will be leaving, but need forward thinking, could move on at any age. You can train YW and they will move on before long. Have open mind and expect people to stay.
34 – because of investment, OW not being here long
98 – comes down to your image and attitudes. If person dresses in a cardi and doesn’t present a bright image they may be overlooked. If they show willingness to learn and ability to take on new or different stuff that’s another matter. All managers have development plans.
53 – culture of organisation . Imperative for productivity, need tools. Make sure that people are using training well, working as a team and sharing.
157 – Pointed out at recent conference that best candidate at interview is not necessarily best employee. If OW didn’t show enthusiasm at interview. OW have less experience at interviews because stay in jobs longer. Professional women manage themselves better – fitness, presentation. Women can reverse some discrimination through networking.
Systemic public sector attitude that wont look at people who have worked in public service, new to NZ, who want shorter hours, come from different backgrounds, seen as over-qualified. They are creating their own shortages. Wont take people who don’t fit image. Against anything different. Managers young and limited incapability. Pressure to perform. Not accountable – wont get fired. But short time frame. Public service managers don’t say “we have a great person we want to keep’
See potential as more limited, not ‘growing them up’ and being nurtured to be future leaders. Culture around career paths. May not be offered ET because seen as having reached capability.
111 – seen as at end of working lives. Not willing to invest, Seen as not accepting new ideas. If you have succession plans you invest in up and coming workers.
72 – why should they not encourage OW?
110 – return on investment. But change in attitudes to careers, tenure of jobs shorter. If people stay 20 or 5 years makes a difference. But now 60 yo can give as good a return as a 30 yo.
100 – employers seek the easiest route. Might do it if makes it easier for me, but want to help the person. Don’t want government to interfere here. Offsetting training costs would help.
99 – lack of understanding and knowledge especially in small companies. Some still have ‘ agricultural’ outlook. Here managers good.
3 – length of time they would get out of worker.
11- think its not worth it.
59 – perhaps return on investment. Courses geared to younger workers. PTrust gives generic courses, internal managed centrally from HR. External courses – managers nominate or staff put up their hand. Age not a factor.
Realistic length of time when benefits current?
33 – doesn’t change rapidly. Take workers views into manual (see above). Continuous training- all in house.
15 – refresher course at least every 2 years. We pay for courses for anyone with certification n, encourage at least once a year.
123 – mostly plant specific., need ongoing recertification. Have to keep competencies up.
88 – Depends, contractual elements – current first aid cert. Every 2 years – non-violent intervention. Other things like to do – harassment, bullying, diversity and equality. Makes people think but nolt mandatory, helps reinforce message.
34 – ongoing education required by nurses to maintain their portfolios as part of their practice. In house training and refreshers all the time for everyone.
98 – new models and new technology in cars coming on all the time and patrols have to keep abreast every 6 months – refreshers. Work closely with manufacturers- have won awards for it from Holden cars. Dedicated trainers and on-line competency skills.
Call centre – team managers train and develop teams ,listen in to calls
53 – DK, depends on job. Writing submissions to parliament has not changed for years, mostly doesn’t change. Legal education changes in content, technology might change, Seminars still presented in same way – may take different approach.
157 – Continually. A lot of workshops, professional development, short conferences, ad hoc. Rather than postgraduate degrees.
111 – in Operations legal requirement for on going training – 90 days up to annual. Otherwise annual or on request. All have opportunities to go on training suitable to their role.
72 – At least once a year – 40 product lines changing constantly, and technology incredible
164 – How long is a piece of string? Rely n individuals and their relationships with their managers. If interested they let resp. know. Invitation to all staff but may not always be able to deliver.
109 – Knowledge remains current. Mainly to comply with legal requirements. Arrangement between them and legal advisors – we teach finance, they teach law – works well.
110 – Impossible to assess, subject specific. Relates to underlying skills. Microsoft – and computer programs – 3 years. Literacy and numeracy will last through life.
116 – Engineering moving all the time.70 YO worker learning about new Swedish technology which will prevent breaks in power.
100 – Varies. For skilled workers 3 years. Can pick up basic skills in a few days. Retail considered a low skilled industry, but this not so for customer skills. Need refresher every year.
162 – we are unique and some training very specialised. Industry with a lot of advances and need for upskilling rather than re-training. Send workers to Rotorua for incubation workshops.
99 – Training is never-ending. Always trying to increase knowledge. Need also skills and desire. Staff are also customers and management are their servants. Expectations may be too high or too low.
3 – depends on subject. Short courses notorious for being short-lived in effect. Some generic skills, e.g. presentation, will stick.
11 – Important to give training and incentive. Can become too routine e.g. standard of uniforms can drop. (they are not in a railway station buffet). Motivation may be more important. The staff know their regulars and have their drinks lined up ready – but they need new ideas. Refresher for accountant about Kiwisaver – may be 6 months.
59 – HR trying to change this (?) – still ruled by bottom line. Depends on course, could be 6 months or 2-3 years. Need to retrain and keep competitive edge, but may be rhetoric – perception rules the roost. Refresher might last 6 months, a week block course – 2 years, university diploma – 2-3 years.
Should employers be proactive in encouraging E/T by OW?
33 – We try to dig deeper and make them think outside their sphere. All floor staff go on HIS (Great NZ?), management go on NZIM courses, May be first aid.
15 – probably, but not just for OW, across the board. Would not do anything different for OW.
123 – yes, otherwise limit use of potential pool of talent. Two way – either could identify needs. Personal development – benefit to individual. Job specific.
88 – Yes, have to be positive. I am head of training. Luckly to have HR bidget with learning and development element. Often training budgets cut if money tight, but short sighted, as still have to train people. Increases motivation, satisfaction and retention. Don’t see wider benefits, Smaller and medium employers may not have an HR advocate,. Learning to do things and retention saves a lot of costs. Some employers short-sighted.
34 – depends on industry but yes, without a doubt. In house and external. About to move nurses on to patient information system on computer, so will need training. Mentor is women in her 70s, for one on one support. They can’t say they are too old to learn it.
98 – no response
53 – would encourage all ages, May be informal learning between ourselves,. Talk about new things and what peo0le have learned. Share, good communication. Performance evaluation may be a useful process to identify ET needs.
157 – Yes, broadening scope of opportunities fir professional development. But have to do it themselves too – personal and professional. Personal and professional development are the same, cant be left to employers by professionals. Contractors have to do it themselves, don’t get access. E.g IPAdmin meetings. Take advantage of ad hoc opportunities – some taken up be leadership development Centre. Others may not be starts.
111 – Yes, perhaps even more so. Skills becoming outdated. If long-term, training have to look more closely at costs and benefits.
72 – Left it to branches and workforce to decide, not wanting to have ;’ head office’ direction. But regional managers – average age 42 – think only of YW. Haven’t been forceful enough, better to give more direction. YW are attending technical training courses, but don’t keep records of age oif people on courses, staring to do this. May have to look at this and suggest encouraging training. Giving encouragement on both sides. Now identifying people who have not been on courses.
164 – No differences in access. Email all staff about general skills courses, such as first aid and Word.
109 – two staff doing accountancy degrees.
110 – Vital to set an example. Staff not up to speed on skills. Need to raise skills base. Virtuous circle. Vital if we are to stay where we rank in the OECD. But ‘skills arms race’ is a nonsense. ET important in its own right. Skills development implies having a good conversation with a customer – use this concept in ITO, training implies a narrower subject matter.
116 – Yes, jobs need to be filled in current workforce. Need to keep people engaged by giving them the working hours they want. Formal process of ‘Learning and Development’.
100 – Don’t tell them what to do – not a problem. For our industry not seen as desirable. Sometimes people need to look at themselves. Shortfalls may not be to do with work, people have complicated lives. But brilliant people may still be made redundant.
162 – Definitley. Have encouraged a 58 yo man, second in charge. A long-serving member of staff whpo was fraid of computers but now does everything. He has depth of practical experience and cant be replaced. He says ‘ you would be better with someone else’. I say ‘no way”.
99 – yes, never ending. Basic training plan and get feedback on how they feel they are doing.
3 – OW may assume that theuy are inelgiblwe may feel they know it already. Encourages Pas in training on Outlook – all are over 65. Performance appraisal – individuals reflect on their role and, with their bosses, identify learning gaps, new technology, identify opportunities in their special fields. We usually agree is relevant – a lot taken on trust. Funding 2 staff to do doctorates.
11 – yes. On request. No special process, too small. Would be desirable, might be seen as criticism if employers suggest. Getting job discretions together to identify. Ask people to go to NZIM course and law courses, Health and Safety office to defibrillator course. Could also be exchanges – chefs to Oz, provides motivation.
59 – Two way thing – some rests with employee. Important to engage OW – more than attracting YW. Some may be compulsory – changes in truist law, for all advoisors, done through refreshers, depends on complexity of change.
Attitudes of OW as barriers
33 – can be resistant – pushing them outside their comfort zone. May be scared of classroom environment as have been there since school. Restaurant supervisors hadn’t been to training and was resistant, resp went with he on 3 day NZIM course. Once first day was over she really enjoyed it and was looking forward to the next. Need safe environment., resp does course before she sends people – know NZIM and GNZ tutors.
15 – Can think of one but cant judge everyone by this. Was 40 and had horticultural qualifications. Needed ongoing training. He was a pain for everyone on week before training, but appreciated if afterwards saying it was better than he thought. There are those that tolerate training and those that are excited by the prospect but attitudes to training are not age driven.
123 – Upgraded control system and equipment at Huntly – to electronic touch screens. Some OW found it difficult, slower to pick it up, took more time but most got over it. Gave one to one help. One worker remained on older plane – a couple questioned whether they should leave. Some reluctance.
88 – They are welcoming it here. Sent 7-8 workers on leadership course – national certificate – ages 20s to 50s, only one instance of resistance to one course, not from an OW. Done a lot of training in lasy year.
34 – yes, initial reaction to computer training. But see it is good to get this through work as it is the way the world is going. Haven’t had to sell it too hard. Gen X and Y have thirst for knowledge.
98 – Roadside patrols eat it up, get a thrill out of changes in vehicle technology, But may pass judgement on cars they don’t like. No resistance, no problems. All computer skilled – all have ‘tablets’ in care which shows jobs on GPS. Keen to learn when central part of job. When tablets were rolled out training was not adequate to make workers comfortable.
72 – Often hear comment ‘that’s for young people’ Reluctant to change. Change attitudes through training and benefits pronounced. Show them it isn’t as hard as they thought. If they see the benefits – finding out what is wrong with the vehicle, they may be wrong themselves 30-505 of the time but with diagnostics they can get the job done quicker.
111 – varies at any age. Some motivated and keen, others not interested “I know what I know’.
157 – they are open top it in our markets – well qualified and intelligent
53 – A lot of people fearful of new things and ‘ giving it a go’ because they are not sure they will grasp it. May not have had an easy working life, not been encouraged, lack confidence. May have had bad experiences in home lives.
164 – Well established OW feel ET not a high priority except for new computer programmes. Don’t look at OW as any different in this respect. OW don’t need extra encouragement.
100 – haven’t struck it- may be not unwilling but scared of it. New hardware manager in her 50s, scared of what she has to learn – is a ‘dinosaur., with take a few months. She will go on computer courses. She will make it as she has the right attitude. Previous hardware manager didn’t have a computer at home, but he came around.
116 – Never felt it – all OW keen to learn and interested. Will never R as enjoy it too much – having fun, will work any hours. No negativity. Come through ranks. Technically trained so have learning mindset.
110 – No, anyone can be resistant. Perhaps there is a cohort in relation to experience of computerisation. Learned this lesson in the 80s in experience of computerisation, OW are no different, personality, not age. There is a perception that pensioners don’t like ATMs, but it is different for workers. Perhaps a Luddite effect for some, but can happen at 35 – found it in mechanic with 12 years experience.
109 – OW we recruited don’t need training, they know what they are doing. Resp. fed HR stuff from law firm, inherited role, good working relationship.
164 – may not be seen as a high priority for OW. They can do the job adequately, been there before and more resistant to change, less motivated (as a generalisation) ask why it is needed, seen as a waste of money. YW hungry for it. I was enthusiastic when young and respondent to the ‘evangelical presentation. But OW may be more cynical about the razzmatazz. They enjoy the experience but don’t come away with new tools, whereas 20 years ago they would have been more enthusiastic. However, the courses may provide the basis to discuss behaviour. Not to say that there are no gains to be made. May give techniques to avoid conflict. May need a refresher, a reminder. Probably behaviour will recur. It is not productive to send people away on courses and then not be able to deliver in the workplace for them to put it into effect. This does not amount to a barrier – it is a lower perception of need, Need may be less for general skills – OW have them already.
162 – variable response by OW in willingness to train, can be a stumbling block. Can be unsure of themselves and may hold themselves back by the attitude that they are going to be discriminated against. Age is just a number, Even supermarket tills are computers.
99 – OW can have bad habits, can have knowledge without skill. Managers may not have the skills to gvet the best out of OW. But generally, OW only too keen once you create the environment for training. Should nev er stop learning. Need empathy with people and caring. One team leader was a mechanic until age 56, problem solver but didn’t know how to communicate. Now 61 and doing well (cf AA example of choosing mechanic or pub worker as roadside assistance).
3 – May have view that they know stuff. Hold up a mirror and encourage them.
11 – varies, have had extreme cases.
59 – some OW believe they cant learn new tricks, some struggle with pace of change, technology.
Special approaches to training?
33 – Tutors and facilitators need to be aware of OW and explain information differently and with sensitivity, but not separate course. They need to know how people of different ages will relate to course material.
15 – Some recognition that they are facing personal issues. Health and strength in particular. Different from general workforce.
123 – gave one to one tuition, more time, talked it through, needed support. Great change – they have not grown up with technology. Need more explanation, context, practice time to build confidence.
88 – depends on training,. Can cope well with classroom teaching. Hands-on coaching may be a preference. Better to show, but depends on personal preferences and learning syle.
34 – need to be convinced that there is something in it for them – that investment is worth it for them. Not heard of anything special.
98 – yes, make it more paced, they are less intuitive with technology – they don’t play computer games. But keen to learn. All pass the exams – we don’t have to change anything.
72 – cost already huge. Resistant to computers, if in mechanical world they don’t develop computer awareness. If OW are reluctant makes it hard. Can have on-line introductory courses. On-line information instead of manuals. Force them to use it through something they are familiar with. OW go looking for hard copies. YW go on line. Remove hard copies from library. 111 – no Talk about training to all workers.
157 – trainers should be suitably experiences and training appropriate.
53 – Invite them and encourages, talk to them at performance appraisals to show benefit of ET. But performance appraisal must not be like being called to headmaster/father. How to make it useful for the employee. People have had bad experiences, need valuing as a person. If something new is coming up like New computer programme – all need to do it. If mixed age group, more gentle approach by trainer for OP, especially for IT. Make sure OP have grasped it – needs patience, But don’t segregate them, seems discriminating. But keep group mixed because they have to work together afterwards.
100 – may be a different pace, e.g. for computer courses.
116 – No
110 – No, insult to make it so. We use RPL – odds are that people do know stuff.. OW may bring different things to the training context, may indeed refreshers only. Don’t take knowledge for granted – so go through elements of raining with a check-list. They may have forgotten. Differences are not just because they are old but because of different work contexts now.
164 – sometimes to overcome their reluctance to accept training requires employers to be persuasive and even forceful to influence them to participate, No different in actual courses.
162 – Hard one – don’t want top be told how to suck eggs. Ensure that training is relevant and meaningful. OW know commonsense things. YW have had less thinking for themselves. Children cant make the neighbourhood their playground now.
99 – Depends on their background. Have often been in work with a manual approach – have to get out of this mindset. Get to know people through appraisals, seek feedback on management. To do right thing – not things right.
3 – lack of confidence and yet benefit when they do go. People respond in similar ways and more in common than differences – so no special form of training
(several people say that it is the encouragement which is needed rather than any special approaches for OW).
11 – no, if they are willing to do it they are better than younger workers.
59 – Learning styles differ, could see targeting of courses, different media used by course the same. Has to be tailoring, but not yet, need a big workforce to implement. Generational differences are amplified in courses. Need to be factored into budgets automatically so don’t have to keep on arguing for it. Senior management cant see it yet. Hard to write course to span wide age groups. Pace, style, delivery – but message the same. Will become more common to target. But need large workforce for this to be effective.
 In 2008 and 2013, I interviewed employers and representatives of public and private sector organisations about attitudes to older workers and factors which either encourage or discourage older people from staying in paid work. This was part of a project undertaken through the University of Waikato, funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
 Harper, S., Khan, H., Saxena, A. and Leeson, G. (2006) Attitude and Practices of Employers towards Ageing Workers: Evidence from a Global Survey on the Future of Retirement. Ageing Horizons, No.5, 31-41.