Award-winning social enterprise CAIS is challenging stereotypes and encouraging employers to build a multigenerational workforce across Wales.
CAIS provides a range of personal support services to people in Wales, including mentoring for those facing life challenges (from housing to mental health) or assistance for clients wanting to get back into education or employment. That work is led by a team of professionals including Wendy Williams who joined the organisation 17 years ago when she was 55 and who is now based in the organisation's Bangor office, travelling across north west Wales to secure work for CAIS’s clients.
“When I first started I came in to work on a pilot project,” says Wendy, 72. At the time I had wondered about going to do an MA but, heading towards 60, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be worth it. Little did I know!” Some 17 years on and still full time, first into the office, and no plans to retire from her role as the organisation’s employer liaison officer, Wendy has never questioned her age or an opportunity to progress since.
CAIS’s CEO Clive Wolfendale joined CAIS when he, himself, was 52 after retiring from a 34-year career with the police.
“I knew I didn’t want to stop working. I felt on top of my game in terms of knowledge and qualifications and wanted to use them in a new way,” says Clive.
“I now want to offer that chance to others too. I know organisations around the region face a real challenge recruiting people with the right qualifications, but I do think we are all missing a trick if we don’t look to recruit people over 50.
“There is a real drive for people to stay active and healthy and live longer, better and more productively and the fact that the average age of our 240-strong staff is 47 is testament to that.”
For Wolfendale, “offering flexibility is important when you recruit, but that is not about age. It’s about leisure and lifestyle, travel or study, health and wellbeing – it is about enjoying a long and sometimes less regulated life and bringing the passion for it and life experiences into the workplace.”
“It is hard to catalogue life experience in the same way you catalogue qualifications on a CV,” adds Wendy. “But life experiences shape so much of how we learn and what we bring to roles and to situations in business. In fact, I feel a work ethic and commitment to a job develops with age, as does a desire to stay with a company rather than train and move on.”