Best for older workers

Jason Clarkson talks about how his employer Phoenix Group has enabled him to keep learning and why he is a passionate advocate of continuous learning.

Picture of Jason Clarkson from Phoenix Group


Jason Clarkson is a Community and Events Manager at Phoenix Group, having joined last year in his early 50s. Now 54, he had been working before that in hospitality and in the music and TV industry. But when he got into his 40s his priorities changed and he needed a greater work-life balance and moved into a corporate job. His previous employer offered a lot of training and development courses and he got back into learning.

Jason had left school relatively early and hadn’t been back in a classroom for decades. He had always been curious, however, and was an avid reader. But it was not until he had lived a little that he felt the need to return to his studies for all the right reasons and with a sense of purpose and direction. He feels allowing workers aged 50+ to combine working and studies is a win win for everyone as they plough that knowledge back into work. 

When he started at Phoenix, which won this year’s WM People Top Employer Award for Best for Older Workers, Jason had spent the five previous years studying alongside his work, doing a degree in business management on day release through a graduate apprenticeship. He got a first and won his university’s medal.

When he started at Phoenix he negotiated a flexible working arrangement as he was in the middle of a master’s in HR management. Phoenix had for years had a policy of offering flexible working from day one in a job which made it fairly straightforward for Jason to negotiate a compressed week, with one day a week for his studies. 

Because his job can involve early starts and weekend work there is lots of flexibility anyway. “There is a lot of flexibility over how, when and where you work at Phoenix and the autonomy to fit work around your lifestyle,” says Jason. He could work from home, but he enjoys the office atmosphere and feels he can build relationships better there as well as preferring a separation between his work life and his studies. Jason speaks regularly about flexible working and the Phoenix Flex initiative, of which he is a passionate advocate.

Opportunities to grow

He hopes to finish his master’s later in the year and will then, after six consecutive years of studying and working, have a short break from his studies. But he is committed to continuous learning. “I cannot begin to tell you how continuing learning has changed my life,” he says. “It enables me to be the best version of myself. As we get older we need to afford ourselves these opportunities to grow, even if they are scary and we suffer from self-doubt.”

Jason says that sometimes during his studies people thought he was the lecturer on the course because of his age, but that only spurred him on. What’s more, he says that combining learning about theory with the knowledge that comes from years of life experience has been life-changing for him and has opened doors. He is a mentor now and acts as a role model for other workers over 50. “It’s important to share your success. It’s like planting seeds,” he says, “and it’s hugely rewarding. Just because we are older we are not on a downward trajectory. We are still discovering the world.”

He adds that it makes all kinds of sense, both for businesses and individuals, to ensure 50+ workers continue to learn. “As 50+ workers we want to have options so upskilling is important so that we can stay relevant in the workplace and live better, longer lives,” says Jason, who is also doing a Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development accredited course in HR management alongside his postgraduate studies. “I now have many things I can do. I do not have to stay in one lane. That is really important. I am future-proofing my career.”

Jason is also working on a project on skills-based volunteering. It’s in its infancy at the moment. It involves Phoenix workers offering charities the benefits of their ‘superpowers’, be they in law, internal communications or other areas. “It’s another way of giving back,” says Jason, “through asking people what their passions are and who they would like to help. I’m super excited and proud of it.” 

*Jason Clarkson is featured in the WM People Best Practice Report, which includes interviews with all the winners of the WM People Top Employer Awards. It is out early next month.

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