Age is no barrier to enterprise - Business Works
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Age is no barrier to enterprise

Teresa Folkes, Director of Client Services, PRIME If someone asked you to describe an entrepreneur, aside from thinking of Richard Branson or Alan Sugar, your next thought might be a younger person due to high-profile shows such as The Apprentice.

However, enterprise is not necessarily reserved for young people, comments Teresa Folkes Director of Client Services at PRIME. Between 2008 and 2012, the UK experienced a growth of self-employed workers and there are now 4.2 million of them, making up 14% of the total workforce.

A significant contribution to this increase was made by the over 50s, with more than 1.7 million mature entrepreneurs in the UK. This is a 21% increase in four years and accounts for 20% of the over-50 workforce.

This demonstrates that older people are adept at starting a business, which often works in their favour due to accumulated skills and experience built up over a number of years.

a darker story?

However, these figures might be hiding the darker story that older people are turning to self-employment because there are fewer opportunities for them in the employment market. In the UK, there are currently around 2.5m unemployed people and the number of unemployed over 50s stands at 425,000, increasing by 5.3% in the past 12 months.

In addition, 46% of unemployed over 50s have been out of work for more than 12 months and around 98,000 of them have been claiming job-related benefits for over a year.

This is a worrying trend and indications show it will get worse. In 2010, there were more than 21 million people over the age of 50 in the UK and this is set to rise to nearly 33 million by 2051. We are living longer and this means most of us will need to continue working for longer in order to support our lifestyles.

Accordinug to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, 50% of people aged 50 to 59 said that financial necessity was the most important reason for working beyond the age of 50 and when you consider that the State Pension Age is set to rise, there will be a significant amount of people who will have to review and possibly delay their retirement plans, creating a need in the over 50 age group to be in work.

PRIME training course

The Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise (PRIME), established in 1999, helps unemployed people aged 50 and above explore self-employment as an alternative route into sustained and fulfilling employment. We do this by organising networking events, mentoring schemes, we have an extensive website and PRIME also runs one-day, as well as three-day, business training courses to help build the skills of an aspiring entrepreneur before they set-up their business.

People that have been supported by PRIME range from the long-term unemployed and those who are seeking new opportunities having been made redundant to those who have retired but want to turn a hobby into a business to supplement their pension or simply fancy a new challenge.

For example, Steve Lapworth from Stafford was a teacher before becoming Head of Adult and Community Learning in Staffordshire. Steve took early retirement, but wanted to put his years of experience to good use. Steve then attended one of PRIME’s business courses and with that training, he established a Interact Arts, a social enterprise helping vulnerable groups to build their confidence and develop personal and social skills, using fun, informal, drama-based learning activities.

Since 1999 around 24,000 people have contacted the charity for help and PRIME has provided further support to more than 9600 people through a mixture of direct loans, access to loans through third parties, one-on-one training, as well as business training courses, so they have the right tools to set-up a sustainable enterprise.

older people have a wealth of skills and experience

We want to help even more people set-up their own businesses and there are many ways in which you could support PRIME.

We welcome experienced business professionals to become mentors, guiding aspiring entrepreneurs through the business world. You or your company could donate money to the charity so that we can fund core activity; provide venue space to hold our business training courses and networking events; or speak to local business contacts to see if they would also like to get involved in our project.

We strongly believe that older people have a wealth of skills and experience and if they are provided with the right tools to set-up a business, this could bring considerable benefits to local communities as well as the economy.

For more information about PRIME, please visit or follow them on Twitter: @charityPRIME

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