Build Blog

Fuller Working Lives and the relevance of learning opportunities for all ages

Story added 2nd Feb 2017


As 2017 continues, and the political debate converges on Brexit, there are still a range of new Government strategies being released that have a relevance to the work of Build and the broader importance of Adult Education.

Today has seen the ‘Fuller Working Lives: A Partnership Approach’ strategy . This is claimed to be a new employer led strategy, which ‘outlines the demographic change facing the UK and the opportunities and challenges an ageing workforce presented for employers, individuals, government and for wider society.’

It clearly states how we are all now living longer - on average almost a decade longer than our grandparents – but sets out the direct implications this has for employers and the economy, not to say our own financial security, health and wellbeing. Points of particular interest, include:

- In 2010, one in four of the working age population was aged 50 and over; and this is projected to increase to one in three by 2022. 

- By 2035, people aged 50 and over will comprise half of the UK adult population (source: ONS (2014) Population Estimates and 2014-based Population Projections). 

- By delaying retirement until 65 instead of 55, a male average earner could have £280,000 extra income and might increase his pension pot by 60%. By retiring at 63 instead of 55, a female average earner who took a 10 year career break, could have £180,000 extra income and might increase her pension pot by 50% (source: DWP modelling, Fuller Working Lives Evidence Base 2017). 

Whilst these statistics might be presented in a finically positive way, the principle of Fuller Working Lives should be considered as important for individuals, employers and the economy. The ‘appropriateness’ of work for an individual’s health, both physical and mental should not be underestimated here – and there is a clear challenge within this strategy for employers ‘to recruit, retain and retrain older workers’, in order to meet future demand. 

The strategy claims that over the next five years, there will be just under two million more people aged 50 years and over and three hundred thousand fewer people aged 16-49 (source: ONS (2014) Population Estimates and 2014-based Population Projections). The Government therefore wants to support older workers to remain in and return to the labour market.

Build – and adult education more broadly – has a role to play here (and arguably is already doing a lot of what the Government sets out as important). The skills and lifelong learning opportunities that are so clearly taken up by the older population (at Build over 45% of all our students are over the age of 50) enable them to learn a new language; how to develop and improve their digital literacy; be retrained in counselling and fitness techniques; and learn a new craft.  All of which will help them start to learn skills vital for employment or even begin their own business. 

'If the Government is serious about wanting to ‘reform the Adult Skills system’ and ‘test ambitious new approaches to encourage lifelong learning’, as set out in this announcement today as well as the Industrial Strategy published earlier in January 2017, then I hope the Government do not lose sight of the important place that colleges like Build can, must, and already, play in making this a success.'

Phil Chamberlain, Executive Director External Engagement

Phil Chamberlain LR