A Pencoed mother of two, Helen Davies, feels her career has only just begun, even though she’s in her 50s and got her first job more than 30 years ago.
After raising a family, she went through a series of lower-skilled, temporary and part-time jobs. It was only after being supported by an employer to take a business studies degree in her 40s that things finally clicked into place for her.
Now, at the age of 50, she has landed a challenging role as commercial business development manager for Engage Training at Bridgend College and is looking forward to another 20 years of working life.
Helen is one of a growing number of older workers in Wales who are revamping their skills in order to extend their working lives. Forecasts say by 2020, a third of Wales’ working age population will be aged over 50.
The Welsh Government is now urging employers to invest in their older employees’ skills, both for the individual’s wellbeing and for the benefit of their businesses. Research shows employers need to hold onto the skills and experience of older staff both in order to be competitive and avoid a huge threatened shortage of workers in the next decade.
Based on UK figures, it is predicted, unless more people stay at work in their 50s and 60s, Wales could face a shortfall of nearly 300,000 in the number of people available to fill vacancies generated by new job creation and natural replacement requirements by 2022.
Helen had been unable to find full-time work following her time away from industry and due to a perceived lack of qualifications. However, she joined the administration staff of Bridgend College, working in a succession of temporary jobs and showing a keen interest in business.
The College recognised Helen’s potential and invested in her skills, funding her to attend a HNC course, then a HND and finally a BA Honours in Business Studies, where she gained a 2:1 last year. This enabled her to become the college’s commercial business development manager.
Helen commented: “The training I have received has been invaluable and given me a new lease of working life and driven my career in a completely new direction. I went from working part-time in a garden centre, not evening knowing what Windows was, to having a degree with over 90 per cent in Excel training and managing my own division. Work was always ‘just a job’ for me, but now I have a real career.
“I absolutely love my work and am so grateful that the college was willing to invest in my skills at an older age to give me this opportunity. Thanks to this, I can see myself working for at least another 20 years – well into my 70s – and I feel like, in that time, I will learn more and achieve more than I have done in my entire working life so far.”