Past research has shown that, as workers age, their participation in education and training declines, which is a problem in our fast changing society and economy. This study focuses on the stimulating and prohibiting reasons for participation in formal learning activities. It investigates whether employees in the second half of their career differ from their younger colleagues in terms of the reasons for participation in formal learning activities. 628 employees from the public health sector completed the questionnaire and after performing factor analysis, several ANOVA analyses were undertaken. Employees older and younger than 45 years of age and groups with varying levels of experience within their organisation (employees with more or less than 20 years service) were compared. Results showed that younger employees were more stimulated by their organisation’s steering than their older colleagues. However, younger employees were less keen than older employees to participate in formal learning due to the required investments of time, financial costs, distance and assignments. In comparing more and less experienced employees, it was found that employees with less experience were more stimulated by the organisational steering and wish to progress. More experienced employees were discouraged by dispositional barriers; for example, they felt that they had learned enough or could not learn any more and also dreaded the idea of ‘going back to school’. The differences found in this study support the statement that age and educational participation are not (or less) directly related than has been suggested. Rather, the differences between different age groups seem to be more related to differences in the personal or private lives of employees, while any differences between experienced and less experienced employees appeared to depend on job-related issues.