Earlier this month, it was revealed that the government's Universal Jobmatch website was publishing advertisements that broke age discrimination laws by specifically asking for recent graduates.
The perception for some, clearly, is that older workers won't have the same energy and drive - and won't reach the same levels of success.
We hear plenty about youthful prodigies such as Mark Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook as a student and was a billionaire by the age of 23. Less well-publicised, though, are the many men and women who achieve success later in life.
As life expectancy rises and people work longer, starting something new in middle age or later is becoming more of an option. We look at ten people who have done just that - and gone on to fame or fortune.
Louise Bourgeois, artist
Louise Bourgeois is now regarded as one of the most important artists of the 20th century - but that certainly wasn't always the case. Although she drew, painted and sculpted throughout her life, she had only four one-woman shows between 1953 and 1978. It was only in her 70s that she achieved fame after a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1982. Her work was personal, confessional and surreal; her works include a series of spider sculptures of which the best-known is Maman: exchibited at Tate Modern's Turbine Hall in 2000, and now installed at the Qatar National Convention Centre in Doha.
Alan Rickman, actor
It's not unusual for actors to begin their careers in childhood - but this certainly isn't always the case. One example is Alan Rickman, winner of BAFTA, Golden Globe and Emmy awards. "Drama school wasn't considered the sensible thing to do at 18," he says, and Rickman worked as a graphic artist before becoming an actor at 28. He didn't get his first real break in the theatre until he was in his 40s - but then went on to appear in everything from Die Hard to Harry Potter.
Colonel Sanders, founder of KFC
Harland David Sanders may have had a genius for cooking chicken and building a business, but this certainly wasn't apparent in his youth. He dropped out of school early and held a series of jobs including army mule-tender, a locomotive fireman and an insurance salesman - getting fired from nmost of them. Sanders was 65 when his latest venture - a small service station - started to take off, thanks to the fried chicken means he was offering travellers. He started franchising the business, along with his secret recipe, and soon had hundreds of outlets. In 1964, he sold his interest in the US company for $2 million.
Taikichiro Mori, property developer
Taikichiro Mori was a professor at Yokohama City University until he retired aged 55 and joined his family's property business - which at the time invloved no more than managing two buildings. But after the Tokyo earthquake of 1923, a building boom in the city gave him his chance. His company was responsible for transforming the city, with the introduction of "smart buildings" equipped with a sophisticated system of rollers designed to absorb the shock of earthquakes. In 1991 and 1992 he was the richest man in the world, with a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at around $13 billion.
Susan Boyle, singer
Most successful contestants on Britain's Got Talent are in their teens or early twenties, which is why a middle-aged, rather dumpy woman with a thick accent didn't cause much excitement when she first walked on stage. As soon as she started to sing, though, her powerful mezzo-soprano voice wowed the audience and judges, and she went on to become a sensation. Although she only came second in the competition, her debut album, I Dreamed a Dream became the UK's best-selling debut album of all time in 2009. She's now sold over 19 million albums worldwide, and was estimated to be worth £22 million in 2012.
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Frank McCourt, author
After growing up in Ireland during the Great Depression, Frank McCourt served in the US Army during the Korean War before going to college. He then spent 30 years as a teacher at a series of schools in New York. It wasn't until he retired that he started writing his Pilitzer Prize-winning memoir Angela's Ashes, published when McCourt was 66. He went on to write two more memoirs before his death in 2009.
Oscar Swahn, Olympic gold medal winner
The oldest Olympic champion ever, Oscar Swahn didn't win his first gold medal until he was 60 years old, in 1908. He took two golds in the running deer, single shot events (individual and team), and a bronze medal in the running deer double shot individual event. But he wasn't ready to rest on his laurels, returning to the Olympics in 1912 and winning another gold medal - plus a silver in 1920 at the ripe old age of 72.
Mary Wesley, author
Mary Wesley wrote two little-known children's books in her late fifties, but didn't publish any adult fiction until 1983 - by which time she was 71 years old. She went on to write and publish seven novels, of which the best-known is probably the Camomile Lawn. Her work certainly challenged stereotypes of older writers, exploring themes of sex and secrecy; her final novel was written when she was 84.
Fauja Singh, marathon runner
Nicknamed the Turbaned Tornado, Fauja Singh was a keen runner in his youth but gave it up in 1947, when he was in his mid-thirties. He started running again in 1995 and was soon taking part in international marathons. At the age of 93, he completed the 26.2 mile distance in six hours and 54 minutes - nearly an hour faster than the previous world record for anyone over 90, and a lot faster than many people a quarter his age.
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