Opinion

How employing a Robert De Niro can empower your business

6 min read

01 October 2015

Former deputy editor

New Hollywood movie The Intern revolves around a 70-year-old widower, played by Robert De Niro, who joins a fast-growing fashion business as a trainee. Just like the film reveals, however, companies and the leaders behind them shouldn't fail to recognise the importance of older professionals.

The film also stars Anne Hathaway as Jules – the young woman whose company has taken off at rapid speed, growing from her kitchen to 250 employees in 18 months.

In comes Ben (De Niro) as part of a new senior intern scheme. However, despite reservations, Jules discovers the importance of experience and what an asset the new team member has become.

Check out the trailer below.

Of course, people in the real world may not have such warm feelings and emotional attachments to each other like those depicted in The Intern, but the power of older workers can’t be denied.

Barclays is one firm that’s recognised this. The bank’s September-launched Bolder Apprentices scheme has eliminated age restrictions for trainees, thus people between 24 and 65 will now have the same opportunities to learn on the job as younger counterparts.

“Once out of work, older workers face a much tougher task to find the opportunities to get back into full employment again. Barclays has launched the Bolder Apprenticeship programme to demonstrate our commitment to creating career opportunities regardless of age,” said Mike Thompson, director of apprenticeships at Barclays.

With this in mind, a CV-Library study has found that an overwhelming 92.2 per cent of workers believe older workers offer valuable contributions to businesses, while over three-quarters of added that they can bring experience and knowledge that can’t be matched by younger staff.

Read more on older workers:

Keeping the positivity going, 92.7 per cent of respondents – who were all aged between 18 and 70 plus – feel mature staff should still be able to climb up the ladder in the workplace. Meanwhile, 48.5 per cent only view someone as an “older worker” once they’re over 60.

Why then, did the report also find that the older workers in question are finding it so difficult to find work?

At 46 per cent, almost half of 55-64 year olds feel their age is hindering their progress in the professional world.

“I’m 60, and despite years of experience in all aspects of office administration, I cannot even get a job as a filing clerk. I have got six years before I can retire! Why can’t I get a job? I’m not going to drop dead at my desk (I hope),” said Judy from the North West.

Similarly, Pete, also in the 55-64 age bracket and from the North West, said his age results in constant rejection from jobs he applies for. Matthew from East Anglia, added: “Permanent positions are hard to find for people over 55 even though they have experience and skills that can help companies.”

“I’m only 48 and I WANT to work but my overall impression is that experience counts for nothing. I’m always being interviewed by people half my age; they do not know how to deal with a serious candidate,” said Sarah from the South East.

Laura from the West Midlands reasoned that everyone needs to restart somewhere, but claimed “most businesses just ignore you”.

In September, Deloitte claimed it will begin introducing “school and university-blind interviews” to avoid a bias on where someone was educated.

Perhaps a similar procedure needs to be introduced by businesses with regards to age in order to prevent older workers from feeling locked out of opportunities to get ahead.

“Age is a sensitive subject for many but it should never be an obstacle in the workplace. It’s reassuring to see that UK professionals understand the valuable contribution older workers make to UK businesses, but it’s not enough if age discrimination still exists in the recruitment process,” said Lee Biggins, founder and MD of CV-Library.

One respondent aged 25-34, James from the South East, opined: “Are over 30s too far ‘over the hill’ to start again?”

“Hearing that someone in their 30s feels too old to start a new career is extremely worrying. Staff are excited about working with talented professionals, regardless of age, and businesses need to listen to this feedback,” Biggins added.

“Age discrimination in the workplace or the recruitment process is unacceptable and it’s time to break down barriers for older workers looking for jobs.”

Image: Warner Bros