You're hired, not tired

Posted on: 06 October 2010 by Editor at Large

The oldest contestant on the new series of The Apprentice - which launches tonight on on BBC1 - is 31. This has prompted calls from Age UK for Sir Alan Sugar to consider mentoring an older person as his apprentice.

Apprenticeships are usually seen as being for young people. Now, though, workers at all stages of their careers can go on to learn new skills, whether they are retraining in the job they are already in or embarking on a completely new direction.

According to figures from the Skills Funding Agency and The Age and Employment Network (TAEN), the number of 50-plus people enrolling on apprenticeship schemes has increased dramatically over the last four years. There are now over 5000 ‘silver’ apprentices in the UK, including the oldest apprentice in the country, who is aged 76.

Terry Robinson, 70, is taking a retail apprenticeship specialising in hardware, and works at B&Q in Oxford. He is one of the oldest members of the skills scheme. He said: "The apprenticeship enhances my confidence when helping and advising on products. You're never too old to learn new things."

Michelle Mitchell, Age UK Charity Director, said: 'It’s great to see so many 50-plus workers snap up the opportunity to upgrade their skills or make a fresh start with their careers through an apprenticeship. This defies the stereotype that older people are reluctant to learn new skills. The Government must stand by its decision to abolish forced retirement while ensuring older workers have access to training opportunities."

Chris Ball, Chief Executive of TAEN, said: 'Many bosses are to be applauded for giving older workers the chance to develop their skills by taking apprenticeships within their organisation. However we believe that more employers need to follow suit and make it possible for those in later life to take apprenticeships so that they can continue to contribute their skills and dedication to businesses and the wider economy."

To find out more about apprenticeships click here

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