Skills bootcamps schemes are failing to get over-50s back onto payrolls, despite ministers prioritising older Brits returning to the workforce.
Labour accused the government of not helping enough over-55s to retrain and claimed older workers were “abandoned to the scrapheap”, making up just one in 20 reskilling trainees.
Adults aged 55 to 67 make up just five per cent of attendees of free 16-week skills camps, but represent a quarter of England’s working age population, government data has shown.
It comes as the rate of UK joblessness rose 4.2 per cent across April to June, per official figures, while a record annual pay growth rise of 7.8 per cent fuelled wage-price spiral fears, despite an expected fall in the rate of inflation slated for tomorrow (Wednesday).
Shadow work and pensions secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said: “Thousands of people in their 50s are out of work but desperate to find a good job and need help with re-skilling.”
The opposition MP said a Labour government would “get Britain working again” and added: “People in their 50s have talents and experience that our economy needs.”
But skills minister Robert Halfon hit back, insisting the criticism was “pure hypocrisy” from Sir Keir Starmer’s party due to the lower proportion of over-50s in work in Labour-run Wales.
“We are delivering our comprehensive plan to get over-50s into work with almost 2m more over-50s in work since Labour left office in 2010,” the Conservative minister added.
“Labour are just shouting from the side lines.”
Skills bootcamps, which teach new sector-specific skills in jobs including healthcare, lorry driving, construction and creative industries, include a fast-track to a job interview.
Government figures state 15 per cent of skills camp attendees are aged between 45 and 54, indicating that 80 per cent are aged under 45.
Halfon said the scheme was “rapidly expanding” and more places would become available for over 50s to benefit, as the government aims to encourage older people back into jobs, with £70m for similar schemes announced in the spring so-called ‘back to work budget’.
However, the Office for National Statistics said the employment rate for 50 to 64-year-olds was 71.3 per cent in March-May 2023, down from 72.6 per cent in early 2020.