Skip to main content

50 to 66-year-olds: Qualifications

Volume 693: debated on Monday 26 April 2021

What recent assessment his Department has made of the proportion of the population aged between 50 and 66 that have a university degree or two A-levels. (914730)

I always feel nervous to cut off the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar) when he is in full flow. Office for National Statistics data for 2020 shows that 29% of those aged 50 to 64 have a degree, and 20% have A-levels or equivalent as their highest qualification. This Government are committed to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to upskill, including through: the lifetime skills guarantee, which includes free courses for jobs; new skills boot camps, funded by £375 million, made available through the national skills fund; and a new lifelong loan entitlement.

This question is very timely because, in the here and now, today’s report from the Resolution Foundation highlights the difficulties being faced by the over-50s in getting back into work. One of the many obstacles they face is insistence by employers, or their graduate-stuffed HR departments, on A-levels or university degrees, even when those qualifications are not relevant to the job. The Minister will recognise the unfair nature of this for a generation for which, as is shown by the figures, taking such qualifications was much less common. Can we get employers—public and private—to focus on the person, not the piece of paper, and end this wasteful discrimination against older workers?

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct, as he would often say he always is; he is absolutely right on this issue. It is so important that employers look at the experience—what people have learnt over their careers—and the true value that they are able to bring to that company. We must not be trapped in the situation that so many companies get themselves into, whereby jobs are advertised as “graduate only”, when so many people who could be applying for that job would bring a level and depth of experience unequalled in so many other areas. I would happily work with the right hon. Gentleman to do more to ensure that all employers understand the value of a workforce of all ages.