Intergenerational working at Steelite International is helping to preserve skills in an industry which is over 100 years old.The ceramics industry relies heavily on skills which are passed down through generations. Steelite International found that it was losing valuable knowledge and experience as their employees retired. Building an age diverse workforce ensured that vital skills could be handed down from one generation to the next.

The average age of Steelite International's workforce is 45. Its youngest worker is 17 and its oldest is 69. Their intergenerational workforce enables skilled older workers to train apprentices and pass on the skills and knowledge needed for the company's future. The company is now experiencing its fifth year of record sales; success which the company attributes to the commitment and passion of its workforce and the transfer of skills through intergenerational working.

So what did they have to change to make this happen?

They offer flexible working, phased retirement and occupational health. By offering flexible working — such as part time roles and alternate shift patterns — and phased retirement, Steelite International enabled its employees to reduce or change their work hours rather than being forced into an early retirement.

They focus on continuous training and lifelong learning for all employees, with offerings tailored to the over 50s.  In the last 12 months, the business has offered over 15,000 hours of training for all employees, giving individuals opportunities to study for an NVQ up to level 2 in Numeracy, Literacy and ICT irrespective of their job function and accountabilities. Courses in Business Improvement Techniques and a Foundation Degree in Leadership and Management were also made available through Staffordshire University and the Steelite Academy.

One employee, who spent 30 years as a factory operative in the glazing department took advantage of opportunities to learn and develop, and is now, at 57, the Union Learning Rep, a company ambassador and employee champion, and works in the company's Health & Safety department as a Standards Assessor.

They offer occupational health and investment in assistive technologies where needed. Investment in occupational health allowed staff to work around health issues related to age, rather than feel that they are left with no choice but to retire. The company holds a three and a half hour monthly clinic at its Stoke-on-Trent site and another at its site in Royal Crown Derby for all its employees.

"Encouraging and enabling those who want to work longer can have a significant impact on not only the success of the business but indeed the country’s economic activity"

Louise Griffin, Steelite International's Head of HR.

Some of the team from Steelite International

One 62 year old worker with ten years’ service was beginning to experience difficulty when pulling stock up and down a ramp using a traditional truck due to back problems which were worsening and causing him to need to take time off work. Through guidance and consultation with occupational health, Steelite International decided to invest in an electrical truck to assist him.

In addition upper age limits have been removed from apprenticeships and graduate programmes and a company wide focus on developing working practices to tackle age discrimination.

They see people as individuals, not defined by their age. Their people-focused approach has mainstreamed the recruitment and retention of older workers through a number of working practices which naturally support and develop employees who wish to work in to their later years.

Steelite International's Head of HR, Louise Griffin, said, “Encouraging and enabling those who want to work longer can have a significant impact on not only the success of the business but indeed the country’s economic activity. Steelite International is therefore fully committed to supporting those who want to maintain a fuller working life and is committed to eliminating discrimination and encouraging age diversity within the business – where every employee feels respected and able to give their best. Employees who have been with the business for a long period are often invaluable and can offer a fountain of knowledge of the business for their respective area and wider afield.” - Louise Griffin, Group Head of HR.

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The original article can be found on Business In The Community's website here.  

"The average age of Steelite International's workforce is 45. Its youngest worker is 17 and its oldest is 69."

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