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‘No Best Before Date’ for Age Connects Workers

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This article has been submitted by The Welsh Government 

An organisation that supports elderly people across Rhondda Cynon Taff, Bridgend and Merthyr Tydfil has shown its commitment to investing in its older employees’ skills by backing a Welsh Government campaign designed to challenge stereotypes and show ’people don’t have a best before date’.

Age Connects Morgannwg is supporting the Welsh Government’s Age of Investment initiative launched during Skills for Work Week, which highlights to employers across Wales the importance of retaining their older workers.

It warns employers that within the next five years one in three people of working age will be over fifty. Therefore, investing in skills throughout an employee’s working life has never been more important.

One of Age Connects’ operations managers, 52 year-old Helen Davies explains how the charity has supported her throughout her career to date.

When her grandmother moved into residential care little did mum-of-three Helen realise it was to become a turning point in her life. Working in a supermarket at the time she took on an additional part-time job in the care home’s laundry. It was there she had a ‘lightbulb’ moment realising she wanted to work with older people. However, in her late 30s and having left school without qualifications, Helen’s confidence in her abilities was low.

She then spotted a maternity cover vacancy with Age Concern Morgannwg, as the charity was then known, and applied to become a support worker at Pontypridd’s Dewi Sant Hospital.

After her contract came to an end Helen decided to stay on with Age Connects as a volunteer until another vacancy in the same service came up. She spent the next four years achieving vocational qualifications, eventually leading to her first managerial position, and in 2016, aged 50, Helen successfully applied for the position of operations manager – another major step up the ladder.

Age Connects Chief Executive, Rachel Rowlands said:

“Our mission is to make a positive difference to the lives of older people every day and having a workforce in which nearly half are over 50 themselves is central to that. We’re committed to developing workers personally and professionally, with vocational qualifications a must for all new starters to boost confidence and improve service quality.”

Work-based learning is encouraged right through to managerial level and, where possible, financially supported by the charity.

Rachel added:

“We offer up to five study days per year for staff to complete assignments and we offer mentoring to new learners from someone who has already completed the course. We allow day release to attend college courses, which I did myself in 2014, and support attendance at relevant seminars and conferences across the UK.”

All staff are encouraged to identify personal and professional training needs, whilst healthy living, healthy minds and the importance of a good work/life balance are also promoted. In addition, ACM [Age Connects Morgannwg] recently supported two members of staff struggling to cope, one with bereavement and one with divorce, by paying for a course of counselling to enable them to develop coping mechanisms and build their resilience.

As part of its Age of Investment initiative, the Welsh Government has teamed up with BITC Cymru, Learning and Work Institute and Older People’s Commissioner to launch the ‘People Don’t Have a Best Before Date’ campaign, designed to challenge the stereotypes of older workers and demonstrate their value in the workplace.

Helen is one of eleven employees selected from a cross-section of exemplar Welsh businesses that have shown a commitment to investing in an all-age workforce to feature in the campaign. It will combine radio and digital advertising and downloadable advice guides and toolkits to illustrate to employers the tangible business benefits of creating a skilled, effective, multi-generational workforce.

 Commenting on the launch of this campaign and highlighting why it has never been more important for companies to recognise how valuable their older worker are.

Skills and Science Minister, Julie James, said:

“Older workers are vital for the future prosperity of our economy and our businesses. Retaining people, developing their skills throughout their working life and recruiting older workers has never been more critical to business survival as well as growth.

“Our workforce in Wales is getting older and young people joining the labour market will not fill all of the vacancies. This campaign is designed to encourage all employers – but particularly SMEs where the loss of skills and cost of recruitment can be more consequential – that they need older workers to survive and grow.

“We hope it will reinforce the issue to Welsh businesses of all sizes and give them practical advice on how they can manage and retain the skills and experience of their older workers, and appeal to the market of older recruits.”

For employers looking for more information on how they can invest in the skills of their older workers, the Welsh Government’s Skills Gateway for Business – https://businesswales.gov.wales/skillsgateway/ has a range of advice and guidance.