Only one in five older workers feel encouraged to take up learning and development opportunities at work  - Business in the Community

Only one in five older workers feel encouraged to take up learning and development opportunities at work 

Business in the Community (BITC), The Prince’s Responsible Business Network, has today published new research which found that employers are doing less to support and encourage older workers to take up learning and development opportunities than they are for younger workers. The research, conducted by YouGov, found that only one in five (21%) older workers (those aged 50-59) feel that their employer pushes them to upskill at work, compared to 56% of those aged 18-29. 

When asked whether their employer has developed a clear training and development plan for them, only 16% of those aged 50-59 said that they had a clear plan in place for their development, compared to 38% of those aged 18-29. This shows that those aged over 50 are twice as likely to have had no training or development support in their current role.  

When asked which skills were most important to develop, the research found that older workers who were looking to upskill were most interested in developing technical skills related to their current role (35%), digital skills (32%), and leadership skills (27%). In contrast, those aged 18-29 were most interested in developing leadership skills (41%), project management (34%) and effective communication (32%). 

The research also found that one in five (22%) 50-59-year-olds believe that they do not have an equal opportunity to advance in their careers due to their personal circumstances or characteristics. This is in comparison to 15% of 18-29-year-olds. 

There has been an increase in economic inactivity amongst older workers (aged 50-64) since the pandemic, with the ONS finding that there are currently over 385,000 more economically inactive adults between 50 and 64 than there were pre-pandemic.[2] Of the older workers who have left work, but are looking to return to work in the future, the ONS reported that one in four (26%) feel that they do not have all the skills they need to get a new job.[3]  

Kate Carr, Employment and Skills Manager at Business in the Community, said:  

“It is crucial that employers support all workers, regardless of age, to learn and develop in their roles. With the news that the UK retirement age could soon increase to 68, employees in their early 50s will still have nearly 20 years left of their career and employers who fail to invest in developing the skills of this crucial talent pool could be missing a trick.  

“With a record number of over 50s leaving the workplace since the pandemic, and skills shortages at an all-time high, employers should be doing everything they can to encourage and support their older employees to stay in work and investing in their development is a critical part of that.” 


This research is part of a wider project that Business in the Community is working on with the Phoenix Group looking at employer support for lower skilled workers. 

Notes to editor

  1. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1097 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14th February – 7th March 2023.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of adults in full or part-time employment in an organisation with 2 or more employees in the UK. 
  2. ONS: Reasons for workers aged over 50 years leaving employment since the start of the coronavirus pandemic: wave 2.  
  3. ONS: Reasons workers aged 50 years and over left and returned to work during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Great Britain (sheet 17). 

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