A Welsh Government drive to encourage a multi-generational workforce is being backed by a bike charity that helps people with disabilities enjoy the benefits of cycling.
Pedal Power has joined the ‘People Don’t Have a ‘Best Before’ Date campaign’, a campaign which seeks to equip business owners with the tools they need to build an all age workforce. Recognising the benefits that older employees can bring to the workforce, the campaign is encouraging SMEs and larger firms to recruit, retain and retrain older workers.
By 2022 one in three people of working age in Wales will be over the age of 50, and data shows that the number of workers in Wales aged over 50 has risen by almost a quarter – 24.8% – between 2007 and 2017, while the number of younger workers has fallen – 16-24-year-olds by 10.1%, and 25-49-year-olds by 3% – over the same period.
Welsh Charity Pedal Power is the biggest UK provider of accessible cycling, with 1,600 members, 98% of whom have a disability, using its services, which include bike rental and repair. Their multi-generational workforce is helping users of the service in many ways, including rehabilitation.
Users can choose from a fleet of 140 vehicles at the Pontcanna site, including 40 types of bikes, specially-adapted bikes, go-karts and pedal cars. They can also access one-on-one coaching or group sessions from the leafy setting of Bute Park.
Director at Pedal Power, Sarah Donovan said:
“We take away the barriers to cycling that many people face, so that everyone can do it. When the weather isn’t so good in winter, we also run a singing group for those who enjoy the social aspect of cycling during the rest of the year.
Sian says the charity’s oldest member to date was aged 92.
“She had Parkinson’s Disease and wanted to carry on cycling so we adapted a bike for her. We also had a member in his 60s recovering from a stroke. He’d been in an induced coma for days and was able to go out on the trike with his carer. He said coming here helped him to walk again.”
Sian, who is 60, says the all-inclusive ethos extends to the workplace of 24 paid staff and 60 active volunteers, where 25% of employees are over 50. The charity’s 61-year-old finance officer works four days a week and flexible hours are offered to all staff.
“We employ people of all ages and we try and fit work around their lives,” said Sian.“We’re always mixing and matching our shifts. Some of our older staff have had health issues and as a result, they need to work shorter days, so we let them move their hours around.
“It’s so important to support older people to work for as long as they want and are able. Just like physical exercise, working can have an enormous benefit for mental health.
“Older people are an asset to our workplace. They have life experience which makes them well-suited to supporting the variety of people who come and use our services, and understanding their needs.”
Bike hire manager Tony Hendrickson, 54 from Canton, has worked at the charity for a year after being made redundant from his previous job. As a keen cyclist he said he was attracted to the company because of its inclusive values.
“Everyone feels comfortable here. Pedal Power doesn’t see age – it sees the individual. Having a diverse workforce is a no-brainer if you want to represent the population.”
Tony is dad to a 10-year-old son and is on an Open University degree course in Business, and the charity allows him flexible hours to work around his family and his studies.
“Having a mixed age workforce creates a respectful environment – we communicate well and we learn from one another,” he added.
“Some of the younger staff know shortcuts – they’ve taught me quicker ways of fixing a certain bike fault, for example. The younger members of staff might be keen to promote what we’re doing on social media, while we remind them that things like leaflet drops and posters are just as important as they’ll reach older people.
“It’s not about better ways of doing things – it’s about how different ways of working can complement one another.”
‘People Don’t Have A ‘Best Before’ Date’, part of the Welsh Government’s Age of Investment drive to ensure Wales has the skills it needs to compete in the global marketplace, points out the critical importance of older workers to businesses.
The Welsh Government has teamed up with Ageing Well in Wales, Business in the Community (BiTC) Cymru, Learning and Work Institute, the Older People’s Commissioner, Chwarae Teg, Federation for Small Businesses (FSB), Wales TUC and others for the campaign, which seeks to challenge stereotypes of older workers and demonstrate their value in the workplace.
A campaign toolkit on Skills Gateway for Business website offers tips for employers, including providing flexible working arrangements to allow older workers to stay longer, tailoring job roles to lessen physical aspects of the work and including all ages in skills development plans.
Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, Eluned Morgan, said:
“Older workers are vital for the future of our economy.
“That’s why we’re asking companies, especially SMEs where skills gaps can have a big impact, to act now and do everything they can to welcome and support people over the age of 50 in the workplace and the job market.
“It’s crucial that businesses encourage existing staff to stay on in their roles past 50, as well as offering them the same opportunities for growth and development as younger workers.
“An all-age workforce is a strong one, for the business and its individual employees, and we can offer plenty of advice and support for any employers who want theirs to become one.”
For employers looking for more information on how they can invest in everyone’s skills, the Welsh Government’s Skills Gateway for Business – https://businesswales.gov.wales/skillsgateway/ has a range of advice and guidance.