STEP UP – bucking the trend for older workers

Wakefield Council’s STEP UP employment programme is bucking a national trend – with a successful programme to support workers aged 50 and over, back into employment.

Research shows that in the UK, older workers are facing greater challenges than many younger workers to secure a new job.

Darren Byford smiling
Cllr Darren Byford

Recognising the challenge, the STEP UP team began promoting their over 50s service in November 2020.

In just seven months, it has supported 81 people to secure new jobs, with the over 50’s representing half of all the successful job outcomes across all age groups using the service.

The Council’s flagship STEP UP programme offers one to one support, is for people of all ages and has overall helped over 400 people to get back into work.   STEP UP’s over 50s programme has been designed specifically to support older workers and this age group represents 40 percent of all clients.

The programme helps older workers to fully recognise their skills, understand how they apply in the current jobs market and then either by marketing residents directly to local employers or by supporting applications to advertised vacancies, they are supported into work.   

The programme also helps older workers to look at how they can work towards retirement and how they can work around caring responsibilities that many of our older workers cite as barriers to working.

The flagship service has been and continues to be busy supporting people and businesses through the coronavirus pandemic, as many people have been out of work, or furloughed, across different industries and sectors.

Cllr Darren Byford, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and Regeneration, said: “Our programme is for everyone of working age and we are pleased that the service is having such a positive impact.

“We know that it can be more difficult when you’re over 50 to secure a new job, which is why our one to one support programme is so important – we believe it is never too late. That’s why I am very pleased that we’ve been able to give people the support they need to gain employment, and that employers in our district are benefitting from the skills and experience that older workers can bring to their business.

“We want everyone looking for work in our district to know it doesn’t matter what industry you want to work in or what skills you have, we can help you to explore different vacancies and training opportunities to help you progress, and to succeed – whatever stage of your career.” 

Susan Ralph was furloughed last May then made redundant in October, after working for 15 years as an office manager. She was worried that because of her age it would be incredibly difficult to get another job. But with the support of STEP UP, she received friendly and constructive advice, which helped her to secure a new role at Wakefield BID, as an executive assistant.

Susan said: “I’m not ready for retirement but I was worried that because of my age, I wouldn’t be able to get another job.

“I approached STEP UP and the support from my advisor made a difference – she helped with sending me over opportunities, building my confidence, and encouraged me to apply for my current role.

“I love my job, no two days are the same and I’d also like to thank Christine Armstrong, who is the Bid Director – we work closely as a team and she has been a great supporter.

“I’d recommend anyone who wants support with their job search to contact STEP UP.”

The STEP UP team support residents to access job opportunities, qualifications, change jobs and progress within their careers. It helps businesses with recruitment and is making a critical contribution to the district-wide recovery effort from the pandemic.

The team also provide support to access training. It helps residents, regardless of their past experience and qualifications, to improve their future job prospects and employers to secure the skilled workforce they need for future growth and sustainability.

Visit the website at or for more information and to make an appointment with a member of the team, call 01924 303334 or email