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Training and Skills

Training and Skills

Training and Skills

Training can help people aged over 50 get back to work, by improving their skills and qualifications, and by raising their self confidence. It is especially helpful when linked to work experience, so that they can try out what they are learning and demonstrate it to a real employer (who may employ them or provide a reference).

How important is training in getting 50+ unemployed people back to work?

Getting back into work after 50 is difficult for everyone who is unemployed, whether they have been in a highly qualified professional job or a low-skilled one.

Many (but certainly not all) 50+ unemployed people have low skills, low qualifications, or low self confidence. Training can help, but it is most effective if it is linked to work experience or organised in conjunction with an employer (or a group of employers) in a sector where there are skill shortages.

People who have done no formal learning for many years may have unhappy memories of school and be nervous about returning to anything like the classroom they escaped from at 15 or 16. Often the easiest way of helping them to cross the threshold is through courses in something they are interested in or know about: a hobby, rather than a job. Sometimes such courses include elements of basic skills (e.g. courses in fishing which include literacy teaching based around fish and fishing).

How to Help Customers

Explain why training matters, what it can and cannot do

Help your customer to reflect on his or her aspirations for work and identify what kind of training might help

Help your customer to set realistic objectives: training and qualifications will not transform opportunities overnight

Help to find appropriate training, at the right time and place

Provide ongoing personal support during the training, talk through difficulties and reflect on how the training relates to their future

Encourage your customers to work together to support each other (talking to someone in similar circumstances about learning problems can be easier than talking to a trainer or an adviser)

Some of the Most Helpful Types of Training

Training which helps to develop self confidence, including confidence with basic skills

Training which broadens horizons, encouraging people to widen their job searching, perhaps to jobs they have never considered before

Training which provides the basic entry requirements for jobs, without which employers will not consider applicants at all (eg health and safety, food hygiene, HGV driving licence)

Training linked to real jobs through work experience


Kinds of Training

Many people think of training as people sitting in rows in a classroom, and some training is like this. Other ways in which people can learn include:
  • work based learning: where people learn from supervisors, colleagues, manuals and trial and error on the job
  • distance learning: learning using printed materials and often online with virtual learning environments (VLE).
  • online training: following a course using on-line materials. This can sometimes be just like following a printed text, but usually involves video presentations and online assessment, interaction with tutors and other students, or simulations of various kinds.

Course format can include full-time, part-time, day or evening, and weekend programmes.

What are ‘learning styles?’

You may hear trainers talk about ‘learning styles’. Academic research has identified different ways in which people perceive and process information, and people’s preferences are termed ‘learning styles’. One commonly used version of learning styles includes these four:

  • auditory learners: learn best by listening and talking
  • visual learners: learn best by seeing, drawing and visualising things
  • tactile learners: learn best by doing, ‘hands on’
  • reflective learners: learn best by reflecting and thinking.

It may help learners to know that they might learn better using a different approach, and there are a variety of simple tests which assess individuals’ styles. However, there is no agreement among researchers about whether there really are different learning styles and how fixed they are.

What is ‘learning to learn’?

Everyone is capable of learning, but some people’s experience of formal instruction has persuaded them they can’t. When people succeed at learning they become more confident and more successful learners: they have ‘learned to learn’. That is why the people who train most are the people with the most education and training: they know they can do it, and have learned to enjoy it. Whatever the training, it is very important that people get a chance to succeed.

Training - the Practicalities

How do you find relevant training?

The simplest and most reliable source of information on courses is in the How to find a course section (opens in new tab or window) of the Gov.UK website..

Who provides training?

In most areas, the largest provider of training is a further education college. However, there are also a host of other training providers. These include private commercial organisations and voluntary organisations, some of which provide specialised training. Some organisations are very local, and some are national or international agencies. Some courses and qualifications are provided by firms who provide particular equipment or technology (especially in the information technology field).

Who pays for training?

Some people are entitled to financial support for training, depending on their personal circumstances.

There are a range of sources of financial support for training. A description of these can be found on the Gov.UK website (opens in new tab or window).  Information on skills provision for the unemployed can be found on The Education and Skills Funding Agency website (opens in new tab or window).

Age discrimination is the most common form of unlawful discrimination in the UK, although an employer or training provider who uses age, directly or indirectly, to select applicants is breaking the law.

Age, training and qualifications

Sometimes employers use lack of qualifications as a reason for not appointing someone. If the qualification is a genuine requirement of the job (like a driving licence for a driving job) this is lawful. Where the qualification is an indication of general ability (like GCSEs) and young people are more likely than older ones to hold that qualification, this may be indirect discrimination. However, proving discrimination to a tribunal can be difficult.


WHP is co-financed by the ESF

Co-financed by the European Social Fund