Fuller Working Lives – Recruit: Derwentside College

Derwentside College provides high quality education and training which helps learners of all ages to develop the knowledge, skills and qualities they need to achieve sustained employment and build successful careers. Derwentside College’s Principal and Chief Executive Karen Redhead explains why it is important to support the North East’s ageing workforce and describes their pioneering work with the over 50s.

Why is engaging the over 50’s so important?
The national picture reflected here in the North East, shows the simple fact that we are all living longer, which means the over 50s are a growing demographic. It’s also true that people are staying much more fit and healthy, meaning there is an increasing tendency – and appetite – for working into the later years.

In this region it’s no different. At Derwentside College, we often see people who need to retrain because they have been made redundant or left the workforce to become a carer for a family member and now wish to return. They have a huge contribution to make in terms of skill set and work ethic.

Let’s also look at the economic argument. The North East has skills gaps that this part of the population can help close. What’s more, when people are physically and mentally active it contributes to their wellbeing, in turn reducing their reliance on the healthcare system and state. With all this in mind, the over fifties are a talent pool we’d be silly to overlook.

How does what you do align with the North East LEP’s Fuller Working Lives Strategy for the region?
The LEP’s strategy aims to support businesses to Recruit, Retrain and Retain workers aged 50+ and is extremely welcome.  Or work aligns perfectly with this aim. Derwentside College is one of the UK’s largest providers of apprenticeships and last year just over a thousand of our apprentices were aged 50+.  

Where employers have had the foresight to see the benefits of retraining some of their existing workforce, our job is to develop the opportunity alongside them and provide the support and training to unlock the value of that worker. We support the LEP’s vision to create ‘more and better jobs’; one of the courses we deliver is a level five qualification in leadership and management skills that supports the technical skills of the individual in the sector they have been working.

How is Derwentside College working with employers to help them unlock the value of the 50+ workforce and recruit more over 50s?
Our employer base is incredibly diverse – we are a significant provider of courses within both the public and private sector which aim to upskill the current workforce as well as keep the skills pipeline flowing. In terms of our work with employers, we apply a very tailored approach to each one. We spend time understanding the issues, find solutions, help them train their staff and make sure this all marries with their policies.

We regularly work in partnership with Jobcentre Plus through which we work with the unemployed.  This is hugely successful because we base our training provision around market needs, giving businesses access to the talent that they need and want. We have around 300 learners over fifty taking part. We offer a specific course for the over 50s called ‘Pace and Purpose Fifty Plus’ which aims to get long-term unemployed individuals into our college environment and retrain in a way that’s comfortable.

Our work academies linked to specific sectors and employers have been particularly popular. Our contract with caravan manufacturer Erwen Hymer is a great example of this.

Erwen Hymer needs to increase its 500-strong workforce to 700. In response we have developed a manufacturing academy focused on the unemployed to deliver the skills it requires. It’s been a brilliant way to get learners into jobs to everyone’s benefit.

If you are an employer and would like to discuss how Derwentside College can support your business to address some of your skills and training needs, especially where older workers are concerned, we’d love to hear from you.  

Inspired by Derwentside College’s work? Find out how you can engage with the North East’s ageing workforce on our Fuller Working Lives toolkit.