Supporting Mid-life Development

Workers are retiring later in life, pensions are uncertain. Traditional forms of life-long employment are disappearing, replaced, in many cases, by short-term, insecure and constantly changing roles. Many workers now will work in a number of different areas in their working lives.

Workers in mid-life, particularly those over the age of 50, who lose their jobs often find it difficult to find new work. Many have developed skills and experience, but are unaware of how they can be applied in new areas.

The 'Supporting mid-life development' campaign aims to:

  • heighten awareness of the challenges faced by workers in mid-life.
  • train union learning reps (ULRs) to support older colleagues in their workplace.
  • carry out mid-life development reviews to help older workers identify their transferable skills.

Workers in mid-life often have a variety of care responsibilities, for children or for ageing parents and relatives. The campaign aims to show how better use of skills and experience can aid in the development of work/life balance.

Valuing the skills of older workers: How to do a mid-life development review

Mid-life development reviews are about starting a conversation and discussing careers in the workplace in the context of the whole of people's lives. People don't get enough chances to talk about themselves in a positive way, and it can be very exciting to discover that someone is taking an interest and it is not too late to make a change or take up new opportunities. Having a review can have a considerable impact on people's lives: it gives people space to think, take stock and locate specialist help.

Unionlearn has produced a guide for delivering mid-life development reviews to help reps go through the process. 

More information: Valuing the skills of older workers: How to do a mid-life development review


Getting Active - This resource pack will help unions initiate and engage members in activities that will get them thinking and planning for mid-life development. Whilst the activities included in this pack are aimed at mid-life and older workers, they are equally useful for anyone in the workplace who would like to think about changing their lives whatever stage they are at.

Unionlearn has produced an interactive card game, Value My Skills cards, to help workers identify their transferable skills. These cards are designed to help workers who are are interested in a new job, a course, a promotion or some voluntary work to think about the skills they've already developed.

Value My Skills Card Jpeg.jpg

The cards can be used to start a discussion, plan for the future or provide the right words to describe skills in a CV, application form or covering letter. The cards can be used by individuals or in a group, where everyone helps each other to think about their skills.

Unionlearn has also produced a recording sheet (Excel) to give users the opportunity to record their decisions during the transferable skills activity and offer them something tangible to take away with you to support your action planning.

Order your pack of cards.

Value My Skills online tool

The new innovative and interactive Value My Skills online tool aims to help workers identify transferable skills. We have experiences and skills from all areas of our lives and this tool will help you identify your strengths and areas for development. You might be considering a change of job or promotion, doing a course or some voluntary work, or simply want to review what you can offer to the jobs market.

The tool takes you through steps with clear instructions to identify and rate your skills, keep reflection notes, design an action plan and record your progress. 

You can use the tool on your own or consider having a Union Learning Rep to guide you and discuss your findings with. You can access the Value My Skills tool here


John Hayes, then Minister for Skills, announced in the summer of 2012 that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) would be funding the National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education (NIACE) to develop and pilot a mid-life career review process. The project commenced in June 2013 and finished in March 2014. The project involved 18 partners and the target was to work with 2,500 individuals to test and evaluate different mid-life career review models, and to develop resources to support the process. The target has been met and exceeded, and the project laid the foundations for future work.

Read the evaluation report: Mid-life career reviews – Helping older workers plan their future.

The Making informed choices – Supporting learners at 50+ guide explores the sources of support and advice available especially for older workers when there is change at the workplace and choices need to be made on future paths and directions.

In late 2016, unionlearn conducted a survey into mid-life development reviews and older workers to assess how unions were continuing to take forward this important agenda.

This report highlights the survey findings and also includes examples of the effective ULR role in engaging employers and staff to meet the needs of mid-life and older workers.  

Mid-life Development webinar 2017

The September series of TUC Education webinars included a live session on supporting mid-life workers. Here you can hear from Jane Warwick, unionlearn Projects Officer discuss the unique challenges workers in mid-life face and how you can support them.