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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 April 2006, 22:37 GMT 23:37 UK
Avoiding the age scrapheap
Panorama: Must Have Own Teeth spoke to many people who had found that their age had impacted on their chances of finding work. Here are some of their stories.

DIA SCOTT-EMUAKPOR

Dia Scott-Emuakpor, 69, returned to Britain in 2003 after spending around ten years teaching at the College of Health Sciences in Saudi Arabia. Despite being trained as a biomedical scientist and having a degree in analytical chemistry, Dr Scott-Emuakpor has struggled to find work.

He says: "Since coming here I have been experiencing quite some problem getting a job." Dr Scott-Emuakpor is hoping to teach scientific subjects like biology, chemistry biochemistry and physiology. He says that employers are being "short-sighted" if they only look for people who are younger.

Dia Scott-Emuakpor

He is refusing to get downhearted about his job search, even though, on some occasions, he gets no reply at all to his letters. He says: "I just feel that one day I should be able to succeed." Dr Scott-Emuakpor says that the possibility of ageism being a factor in his difficulties finding work, leaves him feeling disappointed and "a bit sad".

SHIRLEY BATEMAN

Physicist Shirley Bateman, 71, ended up selling double glazing in a call centre to make ends meet. Having been away from physics for a long time when she retired at 60, Ms Bateman tried writing and chiropody before eventually finding work for an accountant.


Ms Bateman recalls meeting others at a similar age who were also finding it tough to get work. She says: "They'd been in their jobs for a long time and they were eased out - I think is the way you could put it - for the younger generation." She admits the struggle to find employment left her "disillusioned".

In addition to working in a call centre, Ms Bateman also delivered brochures in the period after her retirement. She says: "Really, the call centre for double glazing...these were jobs that really didn't appeal to me whatsoever, but if I could bring an income then that was...that was what I was aiming for." Miss Bateman adds that, in certain areas, she believes Britain is an ageist society.

MICK CASWELL

Mick Caswell, 57, who works in shipping, experienced ageism when he was told by a Job Centre worker that people of his age would find it difficult to get work. Ten years later, he again suffered discrimination when told, at an interview, that candidates straight out of university would be preferred instead of him.

Michael Caswell

Mr Caswell says: "When I've been to interviews, I am aware of the people interviewing me being younger or not older than me, of maybe the feeling that they don't want to employ somebody of my age." He feels that when employers talk about "years of experience", they really mean, "have you got any more years to go?"

However, Mr Caswell's story does offer hope to older people searching for work. He currently works for a firm in which he is part of a team of different ages. But he says everyone "fits together" and says that he is used as a "sounding block" by younger colleagues. He says: "I don't think age has hindered my work prospects, my employment prospects. I've been very fortunate because I'm a fighter."

MONICA HAMILTON

Monica Hamilton, 72, worked as a social worker for many years but encountered ageism when she applied to become a part-time lay member of a Mental Health Tribunal. She believed her professional background would suit the role but her application failed. In a letter from the Lord Chancellor's department, she was told that, due to the amount of training required, she would not be able to offer much service before having to retire.

Monica Hamilton

She says: "I really could not have been better qualified." She adds that this was because she had given evidence to tribunals and knew how they worked. Ms Hamilton admits that she found the rejection "particularly horrifying".

However, Ms Hamilton then fired off a variety of letters to politicians, complaining about ageism. She says: "It was not something I took laying down. That's not really my style." She adds that people should be able to choose when to retire and insists that everyone should be judged on their merits.

DAVID DRUMMOND

When he turned 65, David Drummond says he was "politely" told by his employer they could no longer employ him and that he was expected to retire. Until then, Mr Drummond, who lives in west Reading, between Tilehurst and Calcott, says he was reasonably successful at finding employment up to the age of 60.

David Drummond

After a career in the Merchant Navy, he gave up life at sea to return home to care for his mother. He registered with recruitment agencies, telling them he was prepared to take anything they had to offer. Even a hand-delivered CV for a shelf-stacking job failed to get a reply from a local supermarket. He decided to go for a job which would entail factors that would put off most people, such as weekend work, night shifts and having to work public holidays.

Mr Drummond finally found work as a security guard. He says: "I'm in very good health for my age, I'm physically fit and I can, I believe, work responsibly, I don't take sickies and I haven't had a day off work for the last five years." Mr Drummond adds that he regards himself to be "very fortunate" to be back in work.

JOHN MESSINGHAM

John Messingham, a qualified accountant, decided to leave his last regular job because the company was being taken over. Sensing that his chances of securing another permanent job were failing, he went into interim management, where his accountancy and IT skills paid dividends.

John Messingham

He worked for about nine years continuously on systems implementations and as head of finance for some big companies. But he says the job market is all about speed. "And I'm not speed," he says. "I'm skilled, very highly, but I will look at it and I take a strategic view and take it step by step, and in the end, I will overtake someone who's faster."

He says that the experience which he could pass on to the younger generation seems to be dismissed. "Experience doesn't count, and that is soul destroying." He says work has started to dry up. He put his CV on the internet and that it got 700 hits. "How many people rang me? One," he says. "We have people that were thrown on the scrap heap and we're now being told that we've got to work longer. How the hell can we work longer when we can't get jobs?"

DAVID WILKES

David Wilkes was made redundant from his job as head of human resources of an international bank in London where he worked for five years. Since leaving his post, he says he has had "extreme difficulty" in finding another position of a similar nature, despite contacting recruitment agencies and consultants throughout the UK.

David Wilkes

He focused his search on areas such as the charity sector and the NHS, which he was told had opportunities for "older people". He says he searched far and wide for a job, including Ireland and Scotland. He was also prepared to accept a lower salary than he'd been used to. But he says he still encountered the same problem. "It seemed, in every instance, that my age was the fundamental barrier to me obtaining a position."

He can think of about several instances where he has applied for positions within the same company, which have subsequently been offered to much younger candidates. "All the skills and experience that I built up over many, many years just seem to be going straight out of the window," he says, "And that is an extremely frustrating and depressing situation to find yourself in."

MARGARET BRISLEY

Margaret Brisley currently teaches English to foreign students in Brighton. In 2004, she applied to her local further education college for a job as a learning facilitator.

Margaret Brisley

The job would have been for just 18-and-a-half hours a week plus school holidays - an ideal job, Margaret thought. She says the advertisement for the post and the application form assured her there would be no age discrimination, nor any discrimination on any grounds for that matter.

After sending off the application, however, she got a reply saying: "I'm sorry, we can't consider your application because you're over our retirement age" - which was 65. Margaret says she faces discrimination on the grounds of both gender and age. If she has learnt anything about getting a job in later life, she says, it is never to reveal her age.



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