Section 8: Careers

Section 8:

Workers take part in training for a variety of reasons. These include:

  • Looking for a promotion
  • Wanting to take on a new job or project
  • Wanting to learn new ways to carry out their existing jobs in a more efficient way
    However managers frequently assume that older workers aren’t interested in career development opportunities. Many older workers are happy in the jobs that they’re doing and want to continue in their existing roles until they retire.

Older workers don’t always see the benefits of taking part in training.
However, many are seeking new opportunities, either in their current workplaces or elsewhere. They might want a new direction in their careers, for a new challenge or because of a change in life circumstances – for example a financial reason, like paying off the mortgage.

Question: Why might employers be less aware of older workers’ career ambitions than younger staff?

We need to seize opportunities to plan ahead with older staff too
There are a few reasons why managers are sometimes less aware of older workers’ ambitions:

  • They don’t always carry out appraisals with them. This means that they may not know from their staff “where they want to be in five years.”
  • Older staff may be reluctant to discuss their desire to pursue a new work mission for fear of appearing as if they are less committed to the jobs they are doing at present.
Case study: United Kingdom
Workers can become even more committed if they have the chance to also pursue a goal that they have had for a long time. Employers who support employees in seeking new challenges often find that they have more motivated workforces.

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The UK Government has supported a programme known as the Mid-Life Career Review. This gives workers free access to career advice at or around the age of 50. The initiative, led by the Learning and Work Institute, National Career Services and trade unions aims to provide older workers with information and support to enable them to have meaningful conversations with their employers about their career plans.

[VIDEO: Interview with National Career Service]

Find out more about the Mid-Life Career Review here

Why do care workers do what they do?

Care workers often told us that they don’t just want a job, but also a career.
People join the profession for a variety of reasons. One of the most important reasons is they want to do a job in which they help others.

Many older people become care workers after having taken care of an elderly relative. They may want to continue caring for people who need help and have ideas on ways that care can be delivered.

“I have had a couple of [care workers] say to me that they came into the sector because they’d had relatives who had used care services. They’ve come into the sector, and again, they’ve said that whilst the care was adequate, it could’ve been better. They felt that they could do a better job.” (Skills for Care)
Question: Does this apply to you? Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Employing staff who are motivated by a ‘higher purpose’ can be of real value for employers.

Here’s why:

  • They are usually willing to go the extra mile in ensuring that clients are well looked after,
  • They are continually looking for ways to improve care both in terms of how they carry out their own jobs and in the system more widely.

But they also face many challenges in building their career in care:

It is important that care workers feel valued and have opportunities to develop in their chosen careers. Care workers have a variety of expectations when it comes to work and it is important to understand their career plans both in the short and longer terms. Many times, care workers find that the career that they aspire to is not available in their chosen vocation.

“I think the career path is really limited. I can only speak for myself, but I’m 25 and at a stalemate now. I come from a psychology degree and master’s background, so unless I go back to do a social work degree I’m pretty stunted, unless I changed sectors. That, for me, is quite sad because that’s not something that I want to do.” (UK care worker)

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  • Care workers want training to carry out tasks that are requiring high skills and knowledge. Care work has become increasingly complex, requiring training in a range of disciplines including medicine, gerontology, palliative care, and management. Often, care workers take up new tasks without receiving the training they need to complete them.

    Care workers talked about taking on new tasks because the needs of their clients change. For example, a change in the client’s health may lead to the need for support organising their medicine, or help using a new piece of medical equipment. They want to do their best to serve their clients but also want training so that they can take on their tasks effectively and safely.

  • Many care workers want to see opportunities to progress within the social care sector. In Northern Ireland, care workers talked about the lack of opportunities to seek promotions into higher paid jobs with greater responsibilities.

    As care work becomes increasingly complex and skills driven, they felt that there should be more opportunities to secure jobs that require qualifications and are seen as professions. One care worker who gained a qualification in psychology finding it difficult to use her qualifications in the sector.

  • Others also see their careers progressing within the wider health and social care system. They see their talents being best mobilised in professions that serve their clients in a varieties of ways. For example, one care worker talked about advocating for an elderly client who needed social welfare benefits and helping them apply for credits they were entitled to.

    This experience led her to want to move from social care to social work so that she could focus on ensuring people had the support they need from public services. Another talked about becoming a nurse so that she could use the skills she was developing in care work to create a pathway into health services.

  • Care workers have a variety of ambitions. The key to good management is to ensure they have the training they need to use their skills and career pathways to benefit from them.
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