Lack of professional training and career advancement of older workers

Older workers evaluate their working abilities very positively according to a survey carried out by the Czech Occupational Safety Research Institute. The majority are willing to participate in professional training but less than half had done so in the previous year. Older workers do not feel that their training ambitions or possible career advancement are supported by employers but almost half admit their age group does not take sufficient advantage of adult education.

About the study

The research project Occupational health and safety and risk factors of workers 50 (in Czech) (Svobodová et al, 2009) was carried out by the Occupational Safety Research Institute (VÚBP) for the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MPSV) in 2009. The study’s goal was to examine working conditions and relationships in the workplace for older workers, their experiences with discrimination, career perspectives and position on retirement.

Within the project, a quantitative survey (in Czech, 1.14Mb PDF) (Tabery, 2009) involving 658 respondents was conducted by the Public Opinion Research Centre (CVVM). The surveyed population consisted of workers aged 50–65 years. Information was collected through questionnaire-based standardised personal interviews with quota sampling.

A summary of that part of the study dealing with the professional training and career perspectives of older workers is presented below.

Attitudes of older workers to career and training

The majority of the older workers surveyed declared that:

  • their ability to perform their work had not changed (89%);
  • they fully use their knowledge and experiences (87%);
  • their work performance remains at the same level (86%).

However, 30% of respondents admitted to having some health problems (Figure 1).

In their report, the researchers stress that this confidence about lasting work performance and denial of possible health problems can be interpreted as the motivation of older workers to work and maintain their work position regardless of their actual working capacity.

As many as 71% of the older workers were willing to take part in professional training, but only 43% had taken part in professional training in the last year. A majority (48%) of respondents admitted that older workers in the Czech Republic are not sufficiently active in adult education.

In contrast to their stated willingness to learn, fewer respondents showed a willingness to adapt to change and new requirements imposed by employers (62%). This may be related to the fact that the majority of older workers (79%) do not hope for any advancement of their career. The higher the level of their qualifications, the more open they are to professional training. Those respondents still thinking of promotion at work were mainly university-educated.

Figure 1: Attitudes of workers aged 50–65 years towards future career, education and ability to perform their current job


Source: Tabery, 2009, p. 31

Possibilities for career advancement and professional training

The results indicate that employers do not support older workers much in professional training. While 44% of respondents had their employer’s support, 54% did not feel supported and 30% identified strongly with this statement (Figure 2). Only 11% of respondents had the possibility of career advancement in their current employment and 83% lacked the possibility of promotion. The strength of this response (46% said ‘definitely not’) is notable.

Figure 2: Evaluation of employer with regard to support in professional training and possibility of career advancement

Evaluation of employer with regard to support in professional training and possibility of career advancement

Source: Tabery, 2009, 34

The evaluation of employer support also depends on:

  • the education of the respondent (highly qualified workers described the support as higher);
  • the age of the respondents (those aged 50–55 years felt more supported than those aged over 60 years);
  • company size.

Educational opportunities are greater for older workers in large companies, which usually have a corporate system of professional training, compared with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Threats to older people in the labour market

Older workers can be characterised as a group with a high declared motivation to work, which is enhanced by the feeling of threat in the labour market. Research shows that older people feel disadvantaged, especially in the hiring and firing phases. With the exception of access to education, the findings for the older respondents were the same for other working conditions as their younger colleagues.

Older workers do not feel supported in professional training; almost half the respondents felt that training activity in their age group is insufficient. A kind of a vicious circle has developed because employers do not create conditions for the career advancement of older workers and most of them do not even consider promotion. Thus, it appears that the main aim of older workers is to preserve their position.

References

Svobodová, L., Paleček, M., Kučina, P., Hanáková, E., Švec, B., Chromá, L., Hlavičková, H., Mrkvička, P., Mroziewicz, D. and Myšková, K., BOZP a rizikové faktory pracovníků nad 50 let – uplatnění starších osob v pracovním procesu s návrhy na opatření na úrovni odvětví a podniků [OHS and risk factors for workers over 50 years – the use of older people in the work process with policy proposals for sectoral and enterprise levels], Prague, VÚBP, 2009, available online at http://www.mpsv.cz/files/clanky/7851/Zaverecna_zprava_HR177_2009.pdf.

Tabery, P., BOZP a rizikové faktory pracovníků nad 50 letuplatnění starších osob v pracovním procesu s návrhy na opatření na úrovni odvětví a podniku, Prague, VÚBP, 2009, available online at http://www.mpsv.cz/files/clanky/7852/Priloha_Kvantitativni_setreni.pdf.

Hana Geissler, Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs

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