“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Mark Twain.
I love this quote – and not just because (unbelievably!) I’m now firmly in the over 50s category. And it immediately sprung to mind when I came across the BBC story Over-50s at work: 'You feel your usefulness has passed'
Personally, I don’t feel passed it and I’d like to think I’m quite useful! But in all seriousness, this is an issue that deserves scrutiny. It’s so disheartening to read these experiences and some of the statistics coming from Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and elsewhere. There is a huge amount of talent and experience – the kind of experience we need during these challenging economic times – tragically going to waste.
The CMI survey clearly shows a hiring bias towards young talent. Only 42% of hiring managers were open to taking on people aged 50 and above. Yet, a recent Office for National Statistics survey highlighted that construction was the second most common industry sector for males in employment who are aged 50 and over (sadly it does not feature at all in the female list, which is another and just as important issue that needs to be addressed).
Something doesn’t quite add up, particularly when you look at last week’s rallying cry from Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt for those falling in this age bracket who retired early during the Covid pandemic to consider going back into the workplace. There is a significant amount of talent and experience out there that has a vital role to play in our industry, and others.
We have always had the mantra of hiring on attitude. We look for so much more than qualifications – and at the risk of slightly contradicting myself, experience. We look for people who bring an open minded, imaginative and intrapreneurial approach to the table – people who reflect our philosophy and values. For some, they may think these are the kind of behaviours inherent in young and ambitious talent. But we know, it isn’t. Age simply doesn’t come into it. There is a significant amount of talent and experience out there that has a vital role to play in our industry, and others.
At Solomons we have several team members, including myself, who are 50 and above. Some have joined us from large consultancies and businesses looking for a fresh challenge where they are more than just a number, they can have an impact, and they know that impact will be both recognised and rewarded. Like all of us, they want to be valued.
When it comes to our client work they are all top performers. They’ve naturally developed and honed their skills during their careers. They have more than adapted to changes in the construction industry, and as true ‘Solomonites’ they’ve looked to push the boundaries and make change happen. They share their knowledge, experience and even life skills to help bring our younger team members on. They mentor our up-and-coming talent, whether apprentices, Project or even Senior Quantity Surveyors, and this keeps them sharp and up to date with latest developments. They are invaluable.
But this is far more than a one-way relationship. We push (in a supportive way) each and every one at Solomons to help them be the best they can be, regardless of where they are in their careers. We want them to never stop learning.
So, what exactly is Solomons doing on this? We’re championing Constructing Excellence’s Diploma in Collaboration in Construction with our people, reinforcing the message of my recent blog that we’re all on a lifetime apprenticeship. And we’re progressing plans for regular ‘refreshers’ for our more senior team members through the Solomons Future Skills Academy. We are also looking at career conversion pathways for those looking to join our industry from other sectors.
As an SME we need each and every one of our team to be “on it”. And we need them to work together and support each other. Doing so means we not just continue to deliver an excellent service to clients but deliver yet more value to their projects and programmes and wider positive socioeconomic impact.
As I ready my pen to write my thoughts on this year’s Apprenticeship Week (February 6-10), I can’t help but think that we give too much emphasis on new entrants to our industry, at the detriment of the substantial talent that can sometimes be left dormant in the experienced camp. These guys and girls have ambitions and curiosity and are hungry for knowledge and new ideas just as much as those who are new to our world of work. It simply isn’t an argument for one over another. Together it provides the perfect blend.