Would you be an apprentice in your 50s?

Sarah Coles
BJHK2H Repair person and customer. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.
BJHK2H Repair person and customer. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.

There's nothing certain about work any more. The 'job for life' disappeared a generation ago. Nowadays older people face a host of challenges that can push them out of the workforce later in life. So when you find yourself on the career scrapheap at the age of 50, what are you supposed to do?

The idea of starting all over again in your 50s used to be unimaginable: you were too busy marking time in your safe job and looking forward to picking up your carriage clock. Now, however, thousands of people face starting again from the bottom - or spending a decade on benefits.

A study by Barclays has found that 45% of people in their 50s who are out of work want to re-enter the workplace, but a third of them feel their age is a barrier. While they may have lost touch with developments in their old profession (or that profession may have been consigned to history while they were away) the study showed that two third of them believe they have strong transferable skills they could put to use in a new role.
The company said that to help tackle this problem it has launched an apprenticeship scheme with no age cap. Anyone over the age of 24 who has been out of work for 12 months or more can use it to get back into the workplace.

Apprenticeships may not seem like an obvious route, as traditionally it was school-leavers who were offered this route into work. In the public consciousness, apprentices are young people, at the bottom of the pile. The only people in their 50s you'd expect to see in the boardroom with Alan Sugar are on his side of the desk.


However, apprenticeships for older people hold enormous potential for people keen to get back into the workplace. The study showed that 72% of people over the age of 50 thought that theoretically it would be a good way for older people to get back into work, and a third would consider it themselves.

It works for employers too. KPMG found that older apprentices tend to stay with a company for longer than younger people, and they find it easier to stick with schemes because they are more used to the working environment.

This is reflected in the official figures, which show that the percentage of older people taking up apprenticeships is on the rise. Given that a third of workers will be over the age of 50 by 2020, it's only logical that the percentage of apprentices in this age group will continue to grow too.

But what do you think? Would you be able to start again at the age of 50? Let us know in the comments.

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