School for seniors aims to help get older people in Central Bedfordshire back to work

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Fifty, sixty and seventy-somethings in Central Bedfordshire are being invited to join an online school for ‘olderpreneurs’ seeking to set up in business post-Covid.

The Startup School for Seniors - which starts on Friday, January 14 - is the brainchild of US-born entrepreneur Suzanne Noble, 60, who came up with the idea of the free, eight-week course in her hometown of London as a result of lockdown, causing large rises in unemployment for over-50s.

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She says that whereas the pandemic affected the younger generation and over-50s the worst, it’s the older generation who will struggle to pick themselves up.

Suzanne NobleSuzanne Noble
Suzanne Noble

And now she’s bringing Startup School for Seniors to Central Bedfordshire - only the second one outside the capital.

Suzanne said: "Latest ONS data reports show nearly one in three jobseekers in Central Bedfordshire are aged 50 or over. The Resolution Foundation published a report in October last year which warned that as hundreds come off furlough in the region, over-50s could be locked out of work by ageism.

"From an analysis of the market, there’s a gap in supporting those over-50 to becoming self-employed or setting up their own business. They are less likely to attend a college environment where entrepreneurial provision is centred and may not have experience finding additional support.

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"The programme is gender-neutral and specifically aimed at the over 50s to become self-employed or set up their own business. The over-50s tend to have complex needs when compared with other age groups for whom support is available. For example, one in five people aged 50plus have caring responsibilities."

The online course comprises over 25 hours of video lessons from Suzanne and co-founder Mark Elliott, 57, plus a weekly exploration and collaboration call designed to encourage participants to articulate their business ideas in a safe and welcoming space.

By the end of the course, participants will have improved their digital skills via Zoom, and many will have produced a short-form video to showcase their business.

Suzanne added: "Covid has changed the employment market irreversibly and made it even harder for workers aged 50-plus to find a job.

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"We want to give older people a platform through which they can take back control by launching a business of their own. When people think of start-ups, they tend to picture high-growth tech businesses launched by 20-somethings, but in reality the decision for many people to set up their own company is increasingly driven by necessity and putting food on the table.

"One positive to come from the last two years is that it can make Brits realise “it’s now or never” and spur them to set up their own business or side hustle.

"People should remember that they have lots of transferable skills that are relevant in the modern workplace.

"I’d advise them to take stock of what they enjoy doing, especially around what's known as soft skills such as creative thinking, adaptability, communication, curiosity and how they can use these to their advantage.

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"It could involve them monetising a lifelong hobby or putting the experience they’ve gleaned through their employed careers into use for themselves. For many of the olderpreneurs on our course, self-employment is also about flexibility and working around caring responsibilities, which affect one in five people over 50."

Of the previous participants in the London course, nearly 40% had made money from their business before they finished the course and 100% reported feeling more confident.

Startup School for Seniors starts online on Friday, January 14 and is free to anyone aged 50+, currently unemployed, and recently been made redundant or economically inactive who are resident in Central Bedfordshire. For more info, register at and complete the application form.