Experience vs. ambition: The rising age of contractors

According to research by the Office of National Statistics, the number of people who are self-employed has been on the rise since 2001 – a trend that’s definitely good news for recruiters of contingent workers.

Evidence also suggests that the age of contractors is rising, although there are conflicting pieces of research in this area. One survey states that that 40% of contractors have less than 10 years of experience, whereas another article suggests that the fastest growing age of contractors is 60+.

But what is it that employers value most – a greater level of experience or a fresh new perspective?

Of course one of the pros of employing older contractors is years of experience, therefore a greater peace of mind that the job is in safe hands. It could be said that the cons however, include a lack of fresh perspective and a newer, more innovative mind-set.

It could also be said that older, more experienced contractors are lacking in ambition. The chances are that if a person with years of experience makes the move to become a freelance contractor, it’s because they want to wind down and take on fewer responsibilities.

On the other hand, younger workers with fewer years on the clock are likely to have different motivations for taking this step – for example to increase their portfolio of contacts or to broaden their experience in the field.

This is of course, different in different industries. When hiring a skilled tradesman, years of experience are obviously sought after, whereas if a company is looking for someone skilled in social media for example, this isn’t so much a priority.

With the number of contractors and self-employed in the UK reaching 4.8 million this May however, employers will likely have enough choice to take their pick of any age or level of experience.

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