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Carmarthen success story – ‘people don’t have a best before date’

The National Botanic Gardens of Wales in Carmarthenshire is showing its support for a Welsh Government campaign designed to challenge stereotypes and encourage employers to build a multigenerational workforce across Wales.

By 2022, one in three people of working age in Wales will be age 50 and over . Despite this, 28% of people aged 50-64 years in the UK are not actually in work .

The ‘People Don’t Have a Best Before Date’ campaign highlights the valuable contribution older workers bring to businesses across Wales as well as the wider economy, while also encouraging employers to recruit, retain and train their employees who are over the age of 50.

The National Botanic Garden of Wales is a research and conservation centre of excellence, and home to some of the rarest plants in the world, including some which only grow in Wales.

Paul Smith, 55, joined the team at the National Botanic Garden of Wales after retiring as a teacher and took on the role of running the organisation’s education programme. Paul welcomes 12,000 different school children to the garden each year and gives lessons with no limits on imagination, on subjects as diverse as meteorite hunting, campfire mindfulness and pirate ship building.

Botanic Garden Director Huw Francis says: “Paul’s passion and enthusiasm when teaching the children is contagious. He sees the school’s education programme as an incredible opportunity to enthuse children about science and the natural world and that really comes through when he is delivering the lessons. He makes them fun and engaging and the children come away excited about what they have learned.

“The skills that Paul and his team of educators and former teachers bring to their work are skills that come with age and experience in schools across the country. They are adaptable and creative in their thinking and have made our education programme exciting with lessons spilling over into the grounds to help spark the imagination of children and adults.

Paul says: “I find complete joy in sharing what we have here.
I think what is exciting is we have been able to develop ideas without the boundaries of a school timetable. We create bespoke packages to suit the schools and their specific group of pupils, as well as packages we can use in outreach when we go into the community to share ideas. This includes outdoor and out-of-the-box ideas for learning to support the Welsh Government’s new creative curriculum.”

Paul’s job is, he says, packed to the brim with favourite moments, including bringing his previous experience in schools for children with special needs, and seeing their pleasure in the Garden as they discover alternative ways to learn. Or the sessions his team have developed for adults with brain injuries, sessions that he says, “are socially and physically absolutely brilliant for them”. His team is currently looking at other gaps in support they might be able to fill, including group activities for young people with eating disorders and group support for their parents.

“The opportunities are endless,” he says, before hopping back on his bike and cycling home over the mountains after another momentous day at work.

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Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates, said: “For business in Wales, there is an overwhelming case for investing in the skills of their workforce, especially those aged 50 and over who make a significant contribution to our economy.

“In only two years’ time, it’s likely one in three workers in Wales will be aged 50 and over. Businesses have a great opportunity to benefit from their skills, knowledge and experience to pass on to younger people entering the workplace.

“This campaign challenges ageist stereotypes about older workers and shines a light on the need for Welsh businesses to take action when it comes to future-proofing their workforce and celebrating the difference employees 50 and over make. This is particularly the case for SMEs, for whom losing the valuable skills and experience of older workers can have much more of an impact.

“Employers need to assess, monitor and consider the needs of their more experienced workers, as the role they play in businesses across Wales is critical to the success and prosperity of the Welsh economy.”

The Welsh Government has partnered with the Learning and Work Institute, Business in the Community (BITC) Cymru, the Older People’s Commission, Ageing Well in Wales, the Federation for Small Businesses and Chwarae Teg on this campaign to challenge stereotypes, demonstrate the value of a multi-generational workforce and encourage employers to invest in skills throughout their employees’ working lives.

For employers looking for more information on how they can invest in the skills of their older workers, the Welsh Government’s Skills Gateway for Business – https://businesswales.gov.wales/skillsgateway/ has a range of advice and guidance.