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Learning new skills in later life

11 February 2016 ( 20 March 2020 )

Tips on learning a new skill in later life to develop your career, change career direction or broaden your horizons.

Linda Fleet retrained as an accountant and now runs her own business
Linda Fleet decided to retrain at 50 and now runs her own accountancy business

Society and technology are changing at a rapid speed. Only 25 years ago most businesses and workplaces still stored information in filing cabinets. In today’s totally technologically-driven world, such a thing seems like a distant relic of a bygone era. Which it is.

With the breathtaking pace of change, regularly learning new skills is essential.

Learning brings huge benefits, helping you pick up useful new skills, build a network and meet new people, and continue to progress further in your career.

Studying for new qualifications – and especially gaining a grasp of ever-changing technology tools which are paramount on so many job adverts these days - could help you change direction to a new career, or start working for yourself and running your own business.

Could you afford to become a mature student?

Changing career direction

Linda Fleet, from South Woodham Ferrers, Chelmsford, worked at a supermarket for more than 13 years, as a checkout supervisor and customer service assistant. She began feeling like she wanted to do more, so when she turned 50 she decided to use the milestone as an inspiration to make a break and pursue a new career path.

Linda registered with AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians – search to study for an accounting qualification, and while studying was able to leave her supermarket job and start work at an accounting practice.

After finishing her AAT qualification and working at the accountancy practice for some time, Linda had the confidence to branch out on her own and started her own management accounting firm, which she then started to grow into a thriving business.

AAT sees many students start studying with them at an older age, and then go on to start exciting careers in finance.

CV writing tips for the over-50s

Barriers to learning

Many courses can be studied flexibly, either full-time, or part time, by distance learning or in a classroom, to suit people who want to fit their learning around family and leisure time.

It can feel daunting deciding what skills you should learn and how to find the right training for you, especially if you haven’t done any training for a long time.

Worries about the cost or the time it might take may also make you reluctant to consider it. However, a lot of the time these issues can be easily overcome.

How do I decide what to learn?

One of the best options could be to ask your current employer about potential opportunities. They may have some training in mind related to how they would like you to develop.

Even if they have no specific training in mind, they may have a good idea of where you can seek out useful training courses.

If you’re not working at the moment, think about whether there is something you’ve always wanted to learn. If you enjoy travelling, learning a new language could be very useful, for example.

Job hunting tips for the over-50s

Will learning negatively affect my finances?

You could speak to your employer and find out whether they may be able to help finance any training you have in mind. Many organisations have training budgets and will be happy to help once you’ve let them know there are courses or training you are interested in pursuing. They’ll be especially be keen if it’s training to help you perform better in your present role at work.

How will I find the time to do any learning?

Many training courses offer flexible learning, allowing you to study in the evening or at weekends, as well as during normal working hours. This means you should be able to find a time to suit you perfectly.

If you’re working, you could try to negotiate with your employer for some time off for training if it’s during the working day. Alternatively, they may give you time off to revise for exams or assessments.

It’s never too late to continue learning and updating your skills. Learning helps keep your mind sharp and active. AAT has many students who study accounting qualifications in their 50s, 60s and even their 70s, proving it’s never too late to build up your skills.

Find out more information about AAT training courses.

For more tips and useful information browse our business and careers articles


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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