Big Debate: What can age contribute to the workplace?

Unemployed people seek for a piece of advice at the Jobs Fair in the Boleyn Ground.

Unemployed people seek for a piece of advice at the Jobs Fair in the Boleyn Ground. - Credit: Archant

Young Mayor of Newham Rebekah Dike and Chief Executive of Age UK East London Debbie Walker

Rebekah Dike, 14, is the new Young Mayor of Newham. Picture: Andrew Baker

Rebekah Dike, 14, is the new Young Mayor of Newham. Picture: Andrew Baker - Credit: Archant

With the news that Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has retired at the age of 71, Prince Charles will take over some of the Queen’s Commonwealth duties and the abdication of Dutch Queen Beatrix in favour of her son, you could be forgiven for thinking youth trumps experience in positions of power.

Chief Executive of Age UK East London Debbie Walker

Chief Executive of Age UK East London Debbie Walker - Credit: submitted

But there are 979,000 16 to 24-year-olds unemployed in the UK, amounting to 21.2 per cent of the youth population.

With older people living healthier, longer lives, they are able to work far past the retirement age of 65 meaning employers have less vacancies for young people. Here, the directly-elected Young Mayor of Newham, Rebekah Dike, 15, and Debbie Walker, chief executive of charity Age UK, argue their cases.

Young Mayor of Newham Rebekah Dike

I believe it’s a great idea for young people to be involved in the world of work alongside the older generation.

Young people at the start of their working lives are very open-minded and really energetic.

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They can offer new ideas which are not influenced by the established policies of work and I do feel that young people are potential instruments to boost the morale of workplaces.

Because of the very well-publicised issue of current youth unemployment rates in the UK, young people are even more motivated to succeed and once given the opportunity to work they take it with open arms, giving 100 per cent to whichever role they work in.

The YES programme is the Youth Employment Scheme run within Newham Council.

It’s for people aged 16 to 18 and provides further education and paid work experience.

Through this scheme, the council has been able to help launch the careers of young people.

Many who have signed up have developed into dynamic, hard-working full-time employees of Newham Council.

Older people could help by telling the younger members of their families about the scheme and that the closing date to apply for this year’s scheme is May 26. And remind them too!

The young people of today are the future of this country’s workforce, so it is important for them to be given the opportunity to work in a diverse workforce, alongside those that have worked for many years and know what it takes to succeed.

Regardless of the many prejudices held against young people in today’s society, we do want to work and work hard.

We do want to give back to society and Newham is full of incredibly talented young people who are equipped with everything a workplace needs.

Chief Executive of Age UK East London Debbie Walker

Many people expressed shock at the announcement of 71-year-old Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement from Manchester United – yet many of those same people would question me about the wisdom of employing a care worker or an outreach worker in their seventies.

Sixty-six-year-old Lord Sugar, regularly appears on our TV screens berating candidates on The Apprentice who hang on to his every word hoping to learn the secrets of his success – yet even he tells The Daily Mirror that The Apprentice is a young person’s game.

So why do so many people think it’s OK to say that older people should “make way” and release jobs for others?

Even though age is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act why do so many over-50s struggle to find work?

The fact of the matter is that the best workforce is one where there are many different types of people and the best employer blends the talents of all their people to create a team whose sum is greater than the whole of its parts.

When Dame Helen Mirren (dressed as the Queen) told a group of drummers to make less noise outside the theatre where she was performing we cheered – we did not say why is she still working at 66!

“Are Alex Ferguson, Alan Sugar and Helen Mirren exceptional – yes, but in my opinion no more so than Pat, Phil, Ray, Chris, Gulsen, and others on our team – all past “normal” retirement age, all doing their job supporting older people with skill, talent and passion.

Any employer who judges on age, who says I’m not employing you after a certain age loses out- they lose talented people who will grow their business.

Great workers are great workers.

Their age – irrelevant.”

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