An apprentice at 70

Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:32am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

LONDON (Reuters) - The last time Terry Robinson was an apprentice, when he was 15, he was expected to make the tea and sweep up behind the tradesmen. Now he's taking multiple choice exams behind a computer.

"As the years clock by your ability to retain information does diminish," said the 70-year old, who is currently a customer adviser for British home improvements store B&Q and studying to reach supervisor level.

"It is much more difficult past your 60s -- it's not impossible, but you have to drive harder."

Robinson, one of 150 employees chosen by the company to join its apprenticeship program, is not the company's oldest employee -- 95-year old Sydney Prior claims that title -- but he is one of a handful on the scheme enhancing their skills as they keep earning into official retirement age.

"The reason I'm in is not monetary," said Robinson, whose work supplements what he calls a reasonable state pension, plus small funds accrued in his former job.

"I just couldn't wind down."

Over a quarter of store employees at B&Q, which is part of Kingfisher plc, are over 50. Its embrace of older workers dates back to late 1980s, when it opened a store in Macclesfield staffed entirely by older workers, which it called "a huge success."

Initially B&Q thought older workers might require more training than their younger colleagues but the trial disproved this, says the company, which also employs a similar proportion of under-25s.

It declined to comment on the impact of its policy on labor costs, but said older workers have value with their extensive life experience, and their skills -- for example, in wiring plugs -- can be of help to customers.   Continued...