A survey which showed that the 50-plus age group will be playing an increasingly important role in the labour market in the next five years has led to in-depth research into why they are not being trained for the job.

Thames Valley Enterprise (TVE) carried out a Business Needs Survey last year which showed that many employers were not training staff over the age of 50 to meet the changing skills needs in the region, nor are they employing people in that age group.

Yet the biggest growth area in population is in the 60-plus age group, which is expected to increase by 18 per cent over the next five years. The growth for the 45-59 age group is expected to go up by three per cent, while the 25 to 34 age group will drop by nearly ten per cent over the same period.

TVE has now commissioned Target (Thames Action and Resource Group for Education and Training Ltd) based at Missenden Abbey to conduct an in-depth research programme with SMEs in Bucks to find out why they are not training older employees. The results should be out in October.

Nigel Smith, senior research executive at TVE said: "We want to know what the barriers are and the mind set of the employer."

Last year's Business Needs Survey included feedback from 60 companies in Bucks, half in manufacturing and half in the service industry.

It found that 55 per cent of employers provided training for staff aged under 25; 70 per cent trained staff aged 25-35; 28 per cent trained 35 to 50-year-olds; but only five per cent trained those over 50.