Flexible formula

Retaining skills of older workers and encouraging retired staff to return to work is a top priority for firms facing specialist labour shortages. Anh Nguyen reports.


More companies are trying to lure retired engineers back to work and persuade staff to delay drawing their pensions in an attempt to plug skills gaps in their business, The Engineer has discovered.

While efforts to recruit skilled younger workers might get a higher profile, bodies representing engineering and technology employers say increasing efforts are being made to make staying in the workplace a more attractive prospect than leaving for the golf course.

A survey by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, on how its members are preparing for an ageing workforce, showed more than three-quarters were concerned about the loss of specialist skills due to retirement, with 59 per cent citing this as their greatest concern. More than 200 companies were questioned for the survey.

EEF’s report concluded: ‘To avoid this problem companies need to promote workplace practices which, where necessary, can make it attractive for older workers to remain in work. Our survey shows that many of our members are already embracing initiatives such as offering flexible working or winding-down schemes, but there is scope for these to be offered more widely in the future.’

According to EEF nearly 38 per cent of companies already practise flexible working and a further fifth has recently implemented it or is willing to consider it.

Further evidence of the trend came from a recent poll carried out by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which found that more than 50 per cent of all engineering companies have had to encourage retired engineers to come back to work.

The nuclear sector is one area where the retention of mature skills is particularly important as the nation gears up for a new generation of nuclear power plants.

‘We are very open to keeping people beyond retirement on a case-by-case basis,’ said Peter O’Brien, a spokesman for Nexia Solutions.

‘We would look to be flexible, within reason, to accommodate these people and to retain their skills.

‘For example, we have a senior technical leader, Prof Harry Eccles, who has stayed on with us beyond retirement age, but he wanted to reduce his hours, which we accommodated as well. He works 23 hours a week now.’

O’Brien added: ‘Not only would we encourage people to continue to work if they want to, we are happy to work round what they want to do. In Harry’s case, it will be because of his experience, his knowledge and his skills. It was his wish that he continue working.’