What a waste!
I am not referring to environmental waste, for once, but to the huge amount of talent that we waste all the time by retiring employees too early, or supporting those who could work but choose not to through our benefits system.
Later this year we will see new laws coming in to make it illegal for all employers to discriminate due to age, and not before time, yet often it is the larger businesses, or the public sector, which carries out this discrimination by either allowing employees to take early retirement, or imposing retirement earlier than the current retiring age.
How often have we all heard someone say that they will be able to take early retirement after 30 years, yet they may still only be in their early 50s.
Smaller businesses have for a very long time always seemed to approach their workforce in a slightly different way by employing people purely on their ability to do the job, and often employing them when they are older.
It is also encouraging to see that some of our larger businesses are beginning to recognise that age should be no barrier to continuing to employ someone who is still able to contribute to their business effectively.
They have recognised that just because a person reaches a particular age does not mean that person is now incapable of continuing to add value to a business. Nowadays it often seems to be the case that if you are over thirty five then you may well have difficulty in finding a new position should you lose your current job, and this is at a time when we have very low unemployment.
This attitude seems to be reflected as well in our benefits system where many people of working age still choose not to work because it is either not worth their while, or because they can earn more by remaining at home, and therefore contribute nothing to the economy.
They may also find themselves unable to take up training places due to the reduction in benefits this could mean.
Far too many people still have skills which they could use in helping to train younger people to take on the jobs we need in the future.
Many would welcome the chance to impart their knowledge and skills to a younger generation. We can already see severe shortages of skilled tradesmen in the future unless we can begin to train more of our workforce.
Why should we be taking skilled workers away from developing or poorer countries simply because we cannot train enough people ourselves, or give them the right incentive to train for themselves?
This requires far more of the training on offer to be demand driven, with more value being placed on practical skills in our schools and colleges.
Respecting the value of the "older" members in our community, whilst at the same time giving our employers more flexibility and a better trained workforce would be one positive way forward.
* Mike Cherry is the West Midlands Policy Unit chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses