This article has been submitted by The Welsh Government
A Welsh utilities company has shown its commitment to investing in its older employees’ skills by backing a new Welsh Government campaign designed to challenge stereotypes and show ’people don’t have a best before date’.
Ray Thomas, 63, started working at Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water 40 years ago in the same week his uncle retired after 33 years of service. He knows times have changed but says Welsh Water’s skills development programme means all staff, whatever their age, are given the chance to keep up with those changes. Ray now works in the company’s technical training centre after years of continuous professional development, and writing his first dissertation at the age of 62.
Ray and his employer are now 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.
“I started off digging holes and repairing mains when I was 23,” said Ray. “I sensed straight away that this was a place where you learn. I was given all the practical skills and in this business there is a lot of multi-skilling.
“I’ve worked with the leakage team, with customer service and as a water inspector. I’ve travelled abroad with the company, for example there was a trip to Norway to look at their industry’s best practice. I’ve been on BBC’s Crimewatch helping with a case which saw bogus callers pretending to be from utility companies trying to rip people off. I’ve even been in schools helping classes build papier maché waterworks.”
Ray has been a technical trainer for the last six years after taking a teaching course. He now runs two-day sessions, working 38 hours a week, as well as being on operational standby.
Linda Williams, Director of Human Resources at Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, added:
“More than 10 per cent of our new recruits over the last two years have been over 50. They’re electricians, mechanical fitters, scientists and chartered engineers, procurement specialists and customer advisers. We hire for expertise and many of these employees bring skills that are scarce. We also see how people who bring years of experience to the workplace can hit the ground running.”
As part of Age of Investment, 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.
Ray 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.