Fighting Ageism: Talking with Stephen Ram Kissun about respecting older workers

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Fighting Ageism: Talking with Stephen Ram Kissun about respecting older workers

My name is Stephen Ram Kissun. I’m a TVET international professional consultant with more than 20 years experience working in different situations, both in senior management roles, working for large organisations, corporates, independent providers for trade body, very much in the skills arena, looking at social mobility, widening participation, engagement, and equality and diversity. 


What are your thoughts on ageism?

Yeah, unfortunately, ageism is here and we have to contend with it. In terms of older workers and the mindset, I’ve seen people writing you off because they just think that you don’t have the attributes or skills. I don’t think people are aware of ageism and age discrimination.

Have you ever experienced ageism?

I may have experienced it in a kind of indirect way. One thing I have noticed is that when you’re recruiting, you shouldn’t be stating the age group, but I’ve seen a number of employers still requesting you to state what age group you’re in. This always makes me think, ‘What’s that got to do with the role and how you do it?’ And on some occasions, I’ve declined to disclose that. You don’t need to know that. It’s not relevant. Even though I understand it’s illegal to ask that information, you still have employees requesting to know your age group, and I put it under the rock rail, under the auspices of equal opportunities.

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Have you ever hidden your age in a job application? Or do you know, somebody who has?

When I have applied for jobs, I haven’t overtly disclosed my age, but my experience often gives me away. So sometimes I have to kind of praise the narrative in a way that doesn’t reveal my age. Once I was asked if I’m a graduate and when did you graduate and I said, ‘I graduated in 1980,’ and then suddenly the thing goes, ‘Well, this guy must be quite old.’ This might influence their decision, but they will never tell you that. I try not to think about it, though, and I try to make sure that doesn’t hamper my views or hamper my determination to get a job or the job I’m doing.

Do you think organisations value older workers?

I think yes. You know, in terms of diversity, inclusion, and equality, then yes. I think having that whole broad spectrum of experience, colour, gender, ethnicity, I think they’re all important. And I think all workers can bring a lot to the table in terms of value and impact and insight.

ageism uk infographic

Do you feel that there are enough opportunities in terms of skills development, retraining, and training for older workers?

I don’t think so, and I have not seen it. There’s been a lot about, rightly so. And I applaud it in terms of diversity, inclusion and intersectionality. But I haven’t seen whether age would fall under intersectionality. But I think it should be included, and it should be made as part of that kind of whole diversity spectrum. There should be a way that’s readily available, whether you’re doing it from distant learning or a part of your corporate delivery to your workforce. 

How do you feel that some of these gaps could be addressed whether by employers or by the government? 

I think it should be done by the employers’ responsibility, and it should be under the banner of your DEI policy in terms of diversity, inclusion, and equity. You need to demonstrate that because action speaks louder than words, both in terms of looking at your workforce, and the type of workforce you’ve got.

I think a good example would be the retailer B&Q: they went through a process of recruiting older workers, and many of them were either self employed in the construction industry and had a wealth of experience and knowledge. They found that some of their younger workforce couldn’t give the insight to customers about some things because they didn’t know that. Meanwhile, a qualified tradesman could provide the customer not only with answers, but also assurance and confidence. 

You know, I grew up in a multi age, generational family, and especially in Eastern cultures, we were told to respect our elders and that’s kind of permeated me. So I will show due respect to an older worker, period because of who they are, their expertise and their age.

ageism uk infographic

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