Enabling a diverse workforce: Supporting older workers' career development in health


An older man with a white beard stands on an underground platform waiting for a tube train and smiling down at his phone.  He's wearing a pink pair of jeans and a smart shirt and jacket.

It’s a well-known fact that the UK population is ageing. By 2040, nearly one in seven people is projected to be over 75 - according to the Future of an Ageing Population report published in 2016. Workers in health and social care require career development throughout the lifespan of their working life. This article explores the contribution mature workers can offer either coming into the health and social care sector and those already working within it. It will also consider how career development supports personal and professional development focusing on the what next after a Level 1/2 health and/or social care qualification. 


Why a diverse working pollution is vital? 


Our older workers are key to the UK’s productivity. A recent Future of an Ageing Population report from the Government Office for Science highlights, future economic growth relies on our older workers. Health and social care employers have an opportunity to harness the potential of those aged 50 and over. Economically the business case for recruiting and retaining older workers is supported by evidence that there is expected to be 12.5 million job vacancies from people leaving the UK workforce and an additional two million new jobs will be created. According to Anna Dixon, chief executive at the Centre for Ageing Better,’’ between 2012 and 2022, there will be 12.5 million job vacancies from people leaving the workforce and an additional two million new jobs will be created. With only seven million new young people entering the workforce, recruiting and retaining older workers will be critical.’’ 


Older workers contribution - the benefits of an age diverse workforce. 


Older workers make an important contribution to our workforce. They offer talent and experience serving as mentors, coaches or subject area experts to support a younger generation. Older employees also have vast experiential learning and can being this experience to bear in future periods of uncertainty. Many retired healthcare professionals have returned to our frontline to offer their service amidst the COVID-19 epidemic.  

An age diverse workforce is highly beneficial because it offers differential perspectives, knowledge-sharing, new ideas and improved problem solving; older workers are less likely to be on a steep career path and maybe motivated by other benefits from sharing expertise, to flexible work arrangements and security. Older employees can bring vast amounts of experience, different views and a different mindset, sharing and enchanting their own skills. People also like dealing with people who are wise, knowledge and have industry-specific experience. The health and social sectors are therefore appealing and feasible sectors for our older workers or career changers. 


Research has shown that older employees can bring a wealth of experience and motivation to business. Older people are amongst the most entrepreneurial of workers across age groups. According to a US 2016 study by the Ewing Marion Kaufmann Foundation, between 1996 and 2014, the percentage of older workers starting new ventures increased and exceeded the rate of entrepreneurship among workers aged 20-34. 

Health and social care employers should have an age management strategy to ensure older workers can continue to work to the best of their ability in fulfilling and productive ways as they age. According to NHS Employers, an authoritative voice of NHS workforce leaders and experts workers “are entitled to have equal access to flexible working and training opportunities… key retention tools.” Here are just some of the benefits of an older workforce in health and social care. 



Career development for older workers. 


Health and social care organisations will need good age management practices to meet the needs of all staff. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Services (ACAS) defines good age management as being ’those measures that combat age barriers and promotes age diversity’. This means employers should be aware of older workers rights and responsibilities; awareness of team composition; the provision of flexible working; good recruitment and retention practices; supporting health, safety and wellbeing; and encouraging informed retirement planning. 

Ensuring individuals re-skill throughout their lifetime is important. According to the Foresights  report  which looks at the challenges and opportunities of an ageing society, ‘’as working lives lengthen, and the workplace undergoes major changes, job-related training will become almost as important to people in mid-life as at the beginning of their career. This will require the UK to move towards a model where training and re-skilling opportunities are available throughout people’s careers.’’ Unionlearn has developed a mid-life development review tool to support older workers value and understand how their skills are transferable in today’s world if work, see hereMid-life development reviews are about starting a conversation and discussing careers in the workplace enabling older workers to talk about their strengths, skills and experience. The tool enables discovery demonstrating that it is not too late to make a change or take up new opportunities.  


For older health and social care workers seeking a qualification the organisation Skills for Care offers insightful information to support how to get into and progress within the health and social care sector. No matter what role you start in or indeed where you are in your career path, Skills for Care provide a guide on opportunities to develop and progress in social care. Social care: a rewarding career is an interactive PDF document that explores ways you can develop and progress in social care. This tool kit shows the different job roles you can do in social care, and the qualifications and training you might need to do to get there. Check out - Social care: a rewarding career


For those older workers current undertaking the level 2 Certificate Health and Social Care qualification a. Further develop skills and knowledge by moving onto the Level 3 Certificate in Health and Social Care. This qualification has been designed and written by a team of subject matter experts, who have involved the collaboration of employers and Higher Education Institutions on curriculum content. This is to ensure our qualifications and services meet the needs of industry and help close workforce skills gaps.   

For those older workers or even career changers returning to education the level 2/3 Certificate in Health and Social Care enables profession into a wide range of job roles including:  
• Care Support Workers in adult residential settings 
• Healthcare Assistants in community, primary care and acute health environments 
• Care Support Workers in domiciliary services, supported living or day services 
• Community-based Support Workers 

Alternatively, upon competition and achievement of the level 2 Certificate Health and Social Care qualification learners will be able to progress onto the Level 3 Diploma/Extended Diploma in Health and Social Care. The Certificate can also support learners’ access and progression to further learning in related subject areas at Level 4 and above and access to higher education.  


Find Out More 

For details on social care careers and progression routes visit the Think Care Careers or Skills For Care website or can also: 




Click on the health careers links below to see some of the health roles that work closely with or are also employed in social care settings: 



www.cache.org.uk (Pathways into Early Years) 




Useful Resources for Career Development 

Getting Active - This resource pack will help unions initiate and engage members in activities that will get them thinking and planning for mid-life development. Whilst the activities included in this pack are aimed at mid-life and older workers. 


Unionlearn interactive card game Value My Skills to help workers identify their transferable skills. These cards are designed to help workers who are interested in a new job, a course, a promotion or some voluntary work to think about the skills they've already developed. 



Value My online tool 

The new innovative and interactive Value My Skills online tool aims to help workers identify transferable skills. We have experiences and skills from all areas of our lives and this tool will help you identify your strengths and areas for development. You might be considering a change of job or promotion, doing a course or some voluntary work, or simply want to review what you can offer to the jobs market. 
















An experienced Mental Health Practitioner , Andi’s specialisms are Autism and Dementia Care, coupled with a strong interest in disability, advocacy, sociology and equality. Andi currently works within NHS Mental Health services as an LGBT specialist and within Education as a subject specialist, helping to develop qualifications and assess quality. Andi is currently registered as a trainee counselor, whilst finishing his level 5 Counselling training to become a person-centered counselor. A keen advocate for lifelong learning, Andi is due to complete his Masters of Science in Health and Wellbeing in October 2019.