There has been much focus on the effect this recession is having on young people and white-collar professionals, but the challenges faced by older workers has perhaps fallen under the radar.
A recent report by the Trades Union Congress made for worrying reading for anyone over the age of 50 who has lost their job during the recession.
The paper was based on findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, which revealed that unemployed people over this age were ten times as likely to still be out of work after two years than have found a job.
More worrying still is the report’s warning that a long period of unemployment can hugely increase the risk of them never working again.
The research revealed that every year a man is out of work, his chances of finding a job again reduce by 24.3 per cent and nearly half of currently unemployed over-50s have been out of work for over a year.
“I think there is an increasing acceptance that we have got a real problem about over 50s joblessness, because most people now know somebody over 50 who is workless,” said Laurie South, chief executive of PRIME, the national organisation dedicated to helping older people to set up in business.
One of the areas that is perhaps problematic for older workers is their technological prowess.
So is it that they do not have the skills to keep up with younger employees?
“I think it’s possible but I think a bigger problem is the lack of perceived technological experience,” insisted Rachel Krys, campaign director for the Employers Forum on Age.
“There is a real stereotype about older people not being able to use computers or not being able to learn new systems and all the evidence that we’ve seen is that it’s just not the case.”
Ms Krys insisted that older people are able to learn new skills just as well as their younger rivals, but there is a general prejudice that is causing problems for them when looking for work.
“People are sending off CVs and just not hearing back from anyone,” she revealed.
The likes of Word 2007 courses are one of the ways that older workers can prove they are up to the task.
“Keep your skills refreshed,” she advised, suggesting that over 50s take any opportunity they can to undergo training which demonstrates they have got up-to-date IT skills, such as Microsoft Office courses.
“If you look at someone who is looking for administration or secretarial work, they are going to be able to use IT the same way that anyone who’s been in that work for the past however many years can.”
“I don’t think there’s this big tranche of older people who are just without any modern IT skills and everyone else is ahead of them,” Ms Krys continued.
She said that people who have been doing the same job for a number of years and are now looking to change career or find new employment should make sure their skills are up-to-date, which, for those in the administrative profession, would be undergoing secretarial training or typing courses, for example.
“There’s lots on offer in terms of adult education and that’s got to be a good thing, it’s got to be more of a help that a hindrance,” she asserted.
“People who have done the same job for many years and are now in a position where they’re looking for a new job. I think they would have to look at how they present their skills, because probably they have got relevant skills but often they’re not being presented in a way that a new employer would understand,” Ms Krys added.
She highlighted the example of a worker who has undergone IT training earlier in their career and is educated in using a particular system, but their potential new employer uses different technology.
In such a case, workers must be confident that they can adapt their old skills to the new system.
“Actually, probably 98 per cent of it is transferrable,” Ms Krys commented.
She recommended candidates seek advice on how to update their CVs so that they are relevant for the current jobs market, as well as the specific position they are applying for, in addition to taking the likes of a typing course to demonstrate they have the skills to compete in the current world of employment.