Opinion

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Employers should ignore older workers at their peril

4 Mins

I’ve been banging on for months about the skills time bomb that’ll blow up in our faces if we don’t deal with youth unemployment and it looks like we’re finally starting to see some positive news as more young people are getting into work.

What’s equally pleasing, at the other end of the age scale, is the increasing number of older employees that are part of the country’s workforce. According to government figures from earlier in the month a record number of older workers are in employment after a big increase in recent years.

Apparently almost nine million people over the age of 50 are now in work, which is almost a third of the workforce and a rise of 8.5 percent since 1992. Of these, around 1.1million are aged 65 and over – that’s twice as many as there were in the early 90s.

At Pimlico Plumbers 20 percent of the workforce are aged over 50 and we have a few who are in the 70+ bracket including 82-year-old ‘Young’ Eric in our transport team, who handles my Bentley on the streets of the capital like it’s a Smart Car, and my 72-year-old PA, Mario.

These guys never cease to amaze me. Their stamina, commitment and lust for life are second to none and they give their all, whatever they do. You want proof? Well, later this week Mario is heading off to Africa to run the 156 mile, six-day Marathon des Sables across the Sahara Desert through blistering 100u02daF heat, carrying a 10kg backpack!

He’s doing it to raise money for St Guy’s & St Thomas’ Hospital in London, which is a fantastic cause (his Just Giving page is www.justgiving.com/mario-rebelletto2 by the way). But whether it’s running over sand dunes or sorting out my diary, it doesn’t matter. He does it all to the highest standard and, in my experience, that’s a constant with most older workers.

They are a tremendous asset to a business. Not only from the lifetime of skills and expertise they’ve amassed, but also their ability to work closely with younger guys to pass on the know-how and share their experience.

Get these two things working in tandem and then you’re onto a winner. Employers should ignore older workers at their peril. They can only add value to a business and are an essential piece of the jigsaw that is an effective workforce.

Creating employment is one of the greatest pleasures that any business owner can have. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an apprenticeship or giving someone the chance of a new career later in life. As I’ve always said, if they can do the job and I’ve got a position available then the world is their oyster!

Charlie Mullins is CEO and founder of Pimlico Plumbers

Related: How employers can accommodate an ageing workforce

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