Supporting skills development
Investment in skills to build resilience is important as with ageing societies employers can no longer rely so heavily on a skills pipeline of younger workers leaving initial education. Older workers are more likely to experience skills obsolescence and therefore upgrading and reskilling of workers throughout their working lives is essential. Automation, artificial intelligence and demographic change are transforming the nature of work and production, radically altering the task content of jobs. At the occupation level the risk of automation depends crucially on the particular bundles of skills and abilities that a job consists of. Most jobs are made up of skills and abilities that are easily automatable and those that are not. On average across OECD countries, occupations at highest risk of automation account for about 28% of employment. Very few occupations re at risk of disappearing altogether, but many will alter significantly in the coming decade and a skill strategy that targets older workers is required to support them to remain in employment. Workers need to continuously upgrade, reskill or expand their skills over their entire working lives to enable continued employment
There are persistent inequalities in the provision and take-up of training by age. PIAAC data show that on average across OECD countries only 24% of adults aged 55-65 participate in job-related training, compared to 41% of adults aged 45-54. This can leave older workers without the right skills to flourish over longer working lives. Older workers can also face several barriers to training, including cost and age discrimination that prevents them from accessing training.
High performance work practices play a key role in ensuring that firms are effectively using their employees’ skills. This includes effective career development and performance management which can support skill use and grow the skills and experience of existing employees.
Promoting all-age lifelong learning is essential to retaining talent. Key policies to support skills development for a multigenerational workforce are:
- Governments and social partners can promote high performance work practices through supporting research, raising awareness and disseminating good practice, and funding workplace interventions.
- Equipping all workers with basic digital skills should be a key priority as it can boost their confidence and increase their willingness to participate in further training.
- Good practice by employers and employees includes regularly reviewing skills and work tasks to identify future training or development. Tools such as mid-life career reviews, personal development plans and career conversations can help employees make informed decisions about their training and development.
- Make training attractive to workers of all ages without being discriminatory. Training may need to be adapted to the needs of older workers who are more likely to appreciate in-house one-on-one training, or training with the same age cohort.
- The formal qualifications of older workers are often out of date and participating in training can take considerable time. Recognising the skills and knowledge that older workers have gained on-the-job can reduce the time needed to participate in further training.
- SMEs often experience severe labour shortages and lack the resources and information to provide training opportunities. Governments can target financial incentives such as subsidies at SMEs or support firms that supply training programmes in SMEs. Learning and training networks can also be used to pool resources to reduce costs and share knowledge about effective training.