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Survey Shows Older Employees Less Likely to Receive Retraining

Nov. 20, 2019
Only about half of workers over 55 have been offered job retraining in the past three years, compared to 85% of workers between 18 and 34, according to a recent report.

Companies should value their workforce's talent and offer skill development opportunities to employees regardless of age, according to a new survey report by Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews firm. Clutch surveyed 510 full-time employees in the United States about their job development and retraining preferences.

Despite being undervalued, older workers still want to learn new skills.  Tim Donovan, 55, is a communications specialist at San Francisco tech startup Fundbox. He's seen Silicon Valley's bias against hiring and retraining of older workers firsthand.

"Good people, regardless of age, want to improve their game," said Donovan. "I see older employees focusing on skill expansion to deliver better results. Many of us are in a 'prove-it' mode."

Donovan refers to himself as a "grey asset," and companies should consider older workers just that: Assets who provide experience, a strong work ethic, and a readiness to improve.

Job training models popularized by unions provide an effective template for reskilling workers.

Close to two-thirds of unionized workers (64%) are satisfied with their job retraining options, compared to 54% of non-unionized workers.

Steamfitters Local 449 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, offers a five-year apprenticeship program, in which trainees learn to assemble, install and maintain pipes.

Apprentices receive competitive pay and full benefits. The union also provides access to continuing education programs and conducts training at a state-of-the-art facility that includes 66 welding booths, rigging training labs, and an overhead crane.

Through these initiatives, Local 449 provides its apprentices and members a secure, effective way to learn new skills.

Fewer than half of employees at companies with 500 or fewer employees (48%) say they are offered skill-building opportunities at work, while nearly two-thirds of employees at companies with more than 500 workers (61%) report having access to such opportunities.

Retraining opportunities at smaller businesses may not be as formalized, but can still provide valuable experience. For example, Innovative Comfort Systems HVAC dispatcher Thomas Ngo says he learned new skills when asked to shift to a different position in the same company that required a broader focus.

"I'm no longer mowing the lawn, but managing the whole golf course," Ngo said.

Employees at small businesses should be encouraged to seek out their own opportunities for improving their skills, even if there isn't a formalized retraining program.

Clutch's 2019 Workforce Retraining Survey included 510 full-time employees across the U.S. Nearly three-quarters of employees ages 18 to 34 (73%) believe it is very important for their company to help them build the skills necessary to complete their job successfully. Only 59% of employees ages 55 and over believe this to be true, however, demonstrating the heightened importance of skill development for young workers. Here are some other key findings in the report: 

  • Roughly half (49%) of employees ages 55 and older have not been offered job retraining in the past three years, exposing an unfortunate corporate tendency to undervalue the ability of older workers to learn new skills.
  • Close to one-third of unionized workers (29%) are very satisfied with their job retraining options, while only 17% of non-unionized workers share that sentiment. Training models popularized by labor unions provide a template to develop employees.
  • Fewer than half of employees (48%) in companies with 500 or fewer workers say all or most employees have the opportunity to participate in skill development programs. Experts say that employees at smaller businesses may not recognize the informal skill-building opportunities inherent at smaller organizations.

Read the full report:

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