This article has been submitted by The Welsh Government
Pen-y-Bont-based business owner has been selected to feature in a new Welsh Government campaign designed to challenge stereotypes and show ’people don’t have a best before date’.
Jacqueline Cooling, 68, launched her Maid Perfect cleaning business eight years ago, when she moved to Pen-y-Bont, near St Clears. With a staff of seven in her growing empire, mainly in their 50s and 60s and all working hours to suit their lives, Jackie values skills such as intelligence, trustworthiness and a friendly nature above all else – and her approach is proving perfect for the bottom line.
Jackie 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.
With husband Brian, Jackie, who is originally from Newport, had always wanted to live closer to the sea and after retiring from her job as a civil service manager found the perfect barn conversion project in Carmarthenshire.
She read a magazine article about Prime Cymru, a Prince’s Trust initiative committed to helping people over 50 back into work, so she got in touch with the Llandovery branch.
“They were fantastic,” she says. “They couldn’t do enough and my mentor Louise was invaluable in helping with things like tendering, terms of contracts and health and safety.
“My first employee, Clive, also came through Prime Cymru. I haven’t intentionally taken on mature people but when I’ve read through their application form or conducted a telephone interview I’ve been impressed by their skills and experience, and it just so happens they are older. One of my workers thought she didn’t stand a chance because of her age but she ticked all the boxes.
“I look for intelligence, a good memory, good people skills and a sociable nature. It’s also essential that they are trustworthy. I invest in training, with a training plan for all new starters, and I work with them myself for up to four visits if necessary. Everyone’s idea of cleanliness is different and clients don’t always want the same thing – a farmer’s wife always wants a clean floor.”
Sadly, Brian died four years into their new life, leaving Maid Perfect as an even greater lifeline for Jackie as she integrated into her new community.
Impressive business growth led to a Prime Cymru award and Jackie’s daughter, Lisa, is now set to move to Carmarthenshire to become a partner in the firm.
“I love running Maid Perfect, it gives me a social life,” says Jackie. “I really enjoy my work as it gives me purpose, and I’ve no plans to retire – when my daughter moves down, I have a feeling it’s about to surge.”
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.
Jackie is one of eleven workers 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.