Val Thacker was 16 when she first walked through the doors of East Coast College in Great Yarmouth to train as a hairdresser. Little did she know that 50 years later she would be planning her retirement from the teaching institution after spending the best part of career working there.
This summer she will retire, but she has praised bosses at the college for allowing her to reduce her hours and keep working for as long as she wished.
“A friend of mine had told me about her flexible retirement,” explained Val, 66 from Winterton. “I talked to my then boss and said I felt like I was slowing up and asked if I could go down to two or three days a week. He was very supportive, and I was offered a new role of Deputy Curriculum Manager for Service Industries, which I do three days a week and I love it.”
New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership has launched 50+ Choices, a pilot scheme through which it aims to help employers support their workforce from mid-life. The programme, delivered with the Department for Work and Pensions, showcases the benefits of older workers, their skills and experience, and seeks to improve line management to ensure employees do not leave the workforce before they are ready.
Businesses with up to 250 staff can work with the LEP to review health and wellbeing at work for those over 50, their financial stability, and any skills and training that might support them in continuing to work and contributing to the organisation.
Val Thacker did a two-year course in hairdressing at East Coast College when she was 16 and worked at her mum’s salon for a number of years. She then undertook some further qualifications in hairdressing and beauty and was asked by the college to become a tutor.
She worked part-time at the Great Yarmouth campus and was seconded to work with apprentices at a training school in Ipswich, before a complete change in direction saw Val work as a training officer for a homeless hostel.
However, she eventually returned to the college where her responsibilities have included overseeing work-placed learning, hair and beauty, hospitality and catering, and sport and public services.
Retirement had been on Val Thacker’s mind for a while, but it was the experience of working remotely during lockdown that proved the catalyst for her decision. “I was working from home and I enjoyed being at home,” she said. “It made me realise that I could be at home and find stuff to do, and it did help clarify what I needed to do.”
However, she was still enjoying her work at the college and asked bosses if she could have some flexibility in her retirement. They agreed and she was offered a new role, working three days a week.
Val said: “I think they introduced that role for me out of respect. Employers are realising you have to be flexible around people’s work and home life and you get so much more out of them that way.
“The important thing is I felt valued all the way through it. People can be swept under the carpet and I think that’s awful. But I never felt they wanted to get rid of me and they were really caring.”
Her last day will be 14 July and Val admits she has mixed feelings about the prospect: “Walking out of that door is going to be very hard. Some of my colleagues here were my students years ago and there have been several people I have worked with who were apprentices I looked after.
“I’m not going to miss the paperwork, but I will miss the people dreadfully.”
Ann Wall, Director of People and Wellbeing at East Coast College, said: “Val has been part of the fabric of our College for many years. She cares so much for her students and her staff that we knew it was really important we did what we could to support her retirement plans. Val’s knowledge and experience is so valuable to us, so to create a phased retirement option for her was the obvious choice.
“I’m sure there will be a few misty eyes on Val’s last day, but I don’t think this is the end of Val’s involvement with the College and I’m sure she’ll pop back and keep an eye on us!”
The LEP is running online peer-to-peer sessions on 8 and 15 April where businesses can have informal discussions about how to incorporate 50+ Choices for their workforces.
To register or for more information about the programme, go to https://newanglia.co.uk/support-for-the-over-50s-50-plus-choices/