Strategies for upskilling mature age workers in tech skills

When introducing upskilling initiatives, it’s vital to remember that a “one size fits all” approach may not be effective. Mature age workers could require different methods and additional time for training compared to their younger counterparts.

Things to consider before organising training

  • Identify the skills gap: It is important that any training directly addresses the skills that are needed. Spend time identifying the skills gap before selecting a training method.
  • Budget and Time: Assess how much time and money can be allocated for the training process. Can the older worker afford to take time off for an extensive training program, or should the training be integrated into their daily work routine?
  • Psychological Factors: Older workers might hesitate to ask questions if they feel it exposes their lack of knowledge. Bringing in an external trainer could alleviate this concern.
  • Younger colleagues: It might be tempting to involve younger colleagues in the upskilling process, but consider their workload and willingness. Providing additional tech support should not be an assumed part of their job description.
  • Perception: It’s crucial to frame the training as an opportunity for growth rather than a remedial step. This avoids the feeling of “punishment” and contributes to maintaining a positive work environment.

Selecting a training method

Once you have considered the time, resources and psychological factors involved it is time to select a training method, or methods. These may differ depending on the employee’s learning style. Common training approaches, including pros and cons are described below.

Instructor-led training courses

Traditional, instructor-led training courses held at external locations, where employees can interact with an expert and fellow learners. Common examples include TAFE courses and other certified workshops.

  • Familiarity: Older workers are often more accustomed to in-person, structured learning environments.
  • Comprehensive curriculum: These courses typically cover a wide range of basic skills and foundational knowledge.
  • External trainer: An external setting can often make older employees more comfortable asking questions without the fear of internal judgement.
  • Group learning: The social aspect of group training can be motivational.
  • Limited scope: These courses usually do not cover company-specific software or protocols.
  • Cost: In-person courses often come with a hefty price tag, including tuition and potentially travel.
  • Time-off required: Employees will likely need to take time off work to attend these sessions.
  • Environmental disconnect: Training occurs in an external environment, not at the employee’s own desk or with their specific work setup.

An alternative to traditional instructor-led courses is the 12-week Foundations Course. It’s a comprehensive one-on-one training program facilitated by a tech savvy young person in the workplace. The course is more targeted, less time-consuming, and allows for individual tailoring. Employees can learn on their own systems and at their own desks, making the skills immediately applicable. The young people also benefit, as the program creates jobs for young people who learn important life skills.

Self-paced eLearning

Online learning modules or courses that can be completed at the learner’s own pace, often including video lectures, quizzes, and downloadable resources.

Platforms such Upskilled offer a wide range of online courses, while software providers will also have their own training content, such as the Google Workspace user learner path. Some companies have their own Learning Management Systems and can produce customised eLearning modules.

  • Tracking: It’s easy to monitor completion rates and quiz scores.
  • Flexibility: Employees can revisit the material whenever they need a refresher.
  • Customisation: The content can often be tailored to your specific company systems and software.
  • Tech barriers: The very skills the training aims to improve may be necessary to navigate the training, creating a catch-22.
  • Lack of practical application: Virtual learning often lacks hands-on exercises or real-world application.
  • Does not encourage questions: If the mature age worker does not understand the content as it was presented there is limited opportunity for them to ask follow up questions.

On-the-job training

This type of training is conducted within the workplace during regular working hours, usually led by someone from the same organisation who is proficient in the subject matter.


  • Relevance: Training is highly relevant and immediately applicable to the workers’ daily tasks.
  • Practical skills: Real-world application enhances retention.
  • Cost-effective: The training is typically delivered in-house by other employees.
  • Time: This form of training can be integrated into the daily work schedule.


  • Hesitation to ask: The familiar work environment might make older employees hesitant to ask questions.
  • Potential for colleague frustration: When team members are roped into training duties, it can create additional stress and workload.
  • Stigma: There’s a risk that older workers might feel they are being singled out, which could lead to decreased morale.

An alternative to traditional on-the-job training is 1:1 sessions for mature age workers. These customised sessions are delivered by a tech savvy young person in the workplace, or at home to cover remote working skills. The young people also benefit, as the program creates jobs for young people who learn important life skills. Because its a two way learning opportunity for both the older and younger person, mature age workers feel more valued and engaged in the program.

By approaching this initiative with sensitivity and strategic planning, you can create a training program that not only enhances skills but also fosters a more inclusive and efficient work environment. Feel free to contact us if you need further assistance or consultation.

This post is part of our series Tech skills training for mature age workers: A comprehensive guide for employers

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