Saturday, April 28, 2007

United Kingdom: Minister Addresses Learning and Older Workers

In a speech to the Associate Parliamentary Skills Group, Bill Rammell--Minister of State for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning--addressed the Leitch Review of Skills and specifically the challenge to engage older workers in obtaining the skills they need to succeed, given that those 50 and older are less likely than younger people to be interested in learning and tend to have fewer formal qualifications.

Rammell said that "the government is taking the needs of this group seriously" and that "[e[mployers must draw on the full range of skills and talents of the whole of the workforce" and, in fact, "will have to attract older people in order to support their own future growth." He addressed a number of government initiatives, but he rejected any need (as expressed in the Skills Forum report) to recognise that older workers learn in a different way to everyone else, a difference that should be recognised in qualification design and teaching methods: "[A]s someone approaching the accepted lower age limit for an older worker I find the idea slightly insulting. We can’t lump all older learners together to be treated differently from everyone else."

In concluding, Rammell said that he is optimistic about promoting and communicating our policies and programmes to all adults regardless of age. "It is easy to point to lower participation rates for older workers than for younger ones. But the situation is changing. Over the last 10 years the number of learners in Further Education aged 60 and above has more than doubled--from 113,000 in 1997 to almost 270,000 today." In addition, "[a]s greater numbers of older people remain in, or return to, the workforce I expect this to increase further, not least because most training is through employers."

Source: Department for Education and Skills Speech (April 25, 2007)

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