Niace is calling for adults to have an entitlement to career reviews, not just in mid-life but at other points in their lives, including returning to work from maternity leave, long-term sick leave and caring responsibilities. David Hughes explains why.

Why, when most of us will now work for 50 or more years, do we expect people to make do with the (often inadequate) careers advice they had at school?

This is even more baffling when we know that people will change career many times and jobs will change enormously in coming years.

This lack of advice and support comes to a head at times of transition — perhaps re-entering the labour market after caring for children, or after redundancy, for instance.

The other big transition we have been looking at in the last year is when people enter mid-life — around the time we reach 50.

This is the age at which most people really start to think about retirement, and it often coincides with concerns about ill health, caring responsibilities, children starting their adult lives and even leaving home.

It is also a time when some people have paid off their mortgage and can see new opportunities.

This is why our Mid-life Career Reviews, which have since become part of the government’s Fuller Working Lives Proposals and have also been endorsed by the Liberal Democrats as part of their Manifesto, are such an effective intervention.

The economic case for helping people in mid-life make the right choices about their careers is profound.

The economic case for helping people in mid-life make the right choices about their careers is profound

Our society is going through a fundamental change. People are living much longer. One-in-six of us is over 65, but by 2050 it will be one-in-four.

Over the next decade there will be almost twice as many vacancies as there will be new entrants to the labour market. There is also a powerful social case — staying in work can help people feel valued and valuable, contributing rather than taking. That makes for better communities and stronger families as well as a stronger economy.

The latest evidence from our Mid-life Career Review Pilot Programme shows that, even though most people want to stay working, the majority end up retiring as soon as they can.

This is often due to ill health or not being able to find the right type of job to fit their desired lifestyle.

We have found in our work that small tweaks to designing jobs and to the workplace can help people stay working longer and that re-training can help people who are not physically able to continue in their job.

It’s absolutely vital older people have the right opportunities to develop their skills and participate in learning so they can stay productive, contribute to their employer’s success, as well as making the final years of people’s working lives dynamic and fulfilling.

Our work has shown that the Mid-life Career Review — a simple and relatively cost-effective intervention — provides the information and confidence people need to take more control of their work and their lives.

It also aligns with Ros Altman’s three Rs — as discussed at our conference last week — retaining, retraining and recruiting.

A recent House of Lords report said that we were ‘woefully underprepared for our rapidly ageing population’. That is no longer an option.

We — national and local government, employers, local enterprise partnerships, providers, charities and individuals — must work together to ensure that as Britain ages it does so in a way that benefits everyone.

And we would like to see the career review model extended to help more people, especially those returning to work from maternity leave, long-term sick leave and caring responsibilities.

People do not like to think about getting older. As a country we have been slow to consider the full demographic implications that await us, some popular, others much less so.

But the simple fact remains that people delaying their retirement and working longer can help to diffuse the ‘ticking time-bomb’ of skills shortages and skills gaps for employers, help people stave off poverty in retirement and save money from the
welfare bill.