34 Months and Counting

Monday 2nd July 2012 - Posted in People
By Carl Hopkins, Managing Director, Joblink Solutions CIC

The principle director of Joblink Solutions CIC is Carl Hopkins A one-time Channel 4 ‘Secret Millionaire’, Carl Hopkins is a Yorkshire-based entrepreneur and marketing ‘guru’. Since selling his marketing agency JDA in 2007, Carl has invested in Joblink Solutions; a CIC that supports organisations that train people for work. He is also one of 30 nationwide entrepreneurs handpicked to attend Vince Cable’s Entrepreneurs’ Forum.

34 Months and Counting

…that was my answer when asked why I was getting involved in PRIME, the Princes Initiative for Mature Enterprise.

In 34 months I will be 50 and that is the audience that Prince Charles is hoping to help the fifties and overs. It’s certainly my future and yours perhaps or your present maybe.

How did I become involved?

I spend about a third of my time promoting enterprise through being part of Vince Cables Entrepreneurs forum or through the time I spend in Schools and Higher Education talking to students. Through this work I met with a representative of PRIME and within weeks I was invited to attend a round table discussion with HRH Prince Charles at Clarence House.

The aim of the meeting was to engage with those present in an in-depth discussion about the work of The Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise (PRIME) and how we may be able to extend our reach in supporting business creation for the over 50 entrepreneur.

Founded by HRH The Prince of Wales, PRIME is the only national organisation dedicated to promoting 50+ self-employment and enterprise. The cause of the over 50s unemployed is now a major social issue and one that will get far worse over the next few years.

There are over 4,000,000 people in the UK over the age of 50 who are out of work and many more now worrying about redundancy. Long-term unemployment continues to hit the over 50s harder and over the past two years it is estimated that unemployment for this group has increased by over 40%, with 61% having been out of work for 6 months or more.

Full time employment opportunities for this demographic are notably scarce, however, PRIME works with this valuable group of people (who are often from disadvantaged backgrounds and have been unemployed for more than six months) to set up their own enterprises and become more self-reliant and financially independent. At a time when salaried employment is likely to come under increasing pressure, the scale of the opportunity is one which Government are only beginning to appreciate.

Over the past few years, despite limited resources, PRIME has developed a strong brand in its market and has achieved considerable success. They help to start around 850 new enterprises last year which add to the economy and over 10 years, we aim to create around 7,000 sustainable businesses.

As well as discussing the options of starting their own business we touched upon how we might support mature employees in areas such as how their choices are more likely shaped by employment conditions in which they find themselves at mid-life rather than a motivation of “self realization”.
Perhaps they have suffered a redundancy which is a key trigger to becoming a mature entrepreneur, so they are then by “necessity” driven to entrepreneurship “pushed” rather than “pulled”. Perhaps they need more employer support e.g. flexible working/downshifting as they become older especially within more manual workplaces.

And the huge issue we all face whether as employer or employee is the fact that retirement is now a process and not an event.

As employers do we see signs of cultural ageism? Questions can be asked over the distribution within the work place of fairer learning and development – why is it always aimed at the “young”? I myself have been guilty in a past life of this and the phrase long term return on investment may be some weak excuse, but the chances are older staff are more loyal than the younger career ladder climbers.

My own Community Interest Company Joblink Solutions is working on a programme of workshops and seminars to run on behalf of employers to help their employees prepare for their ‘second life’.
Maybe you need to review the business benefits to you, the employer, of instigating such programmes would they add to an improvement of employee relationships as well as their own well-being. You could improve your chance as being an ‘employer of choice’ as you demonstrate how your people are developed and how you, as a business, attract, retain and motivate experienced talent. It creates brand advocates from your own staff as they enter their second life with or without you as an employer.

Harvard Business School put it well when they said “Organisations need to take radical steps to help their executives understand that given current life expectancy, everybody in the company will leave at some point to begin a second life The question is as what age”

So I ask you, are you investing in the future of your ageing workforce?
Or are you investigating your options as a Mature Entrepreneur?

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