It's not easy for anyone, at any age, to find work these days, but the struggles are particularly challenging for the 50+ crowd. One resource out there that can help hasn't drawn widespread attention during the most recent economic downturn — something AARP Foundation is determined to change with a renewed emphasis on the advantages of hiring older workers.
In 1998, Congress passed the Workforce Investment Act, which was designed to build a more highly skilled workforce to support and expand the U.S. economy. The act mandated the formation of more than 600 Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) around the country, each made up of local business owners, educators, labor union representatives, local government officials and other community representatives. These boards develop and oversee creative programs to help workers find jobs and employers find workers.
At the most recent National Association of Workforce Boards Forum in Washington, DC, AARP Foundation hosted a workshop focusing on issues specifically related to older workers. Three speakers at the workshop, all representing their local WIBs, offered tips and techniques to help people 50+ find work and talked about what they have done to assist in the effort.
- Kristina Payne, director of the Lane (County) Workforce Partners in Eugene, Oregon, talked about customizing training programs for people 50+. Payne has worked with national call centers in the Eugene area, including a national rental car company and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, to develop specialized call center training for 50+ workers that teaches them transferable skills. “Royal Caribbean told me they wanted older workers because of their reliability and dependability,” Payne said, "and worked with me on ensuring the call center skills we taught were transferable to other companies.”
- John Leslie, executive director of the Florida Institute for Technology in Melrose, targets 50+ workers with jobs that interest them, meet their skill set and, most important, are in demand. The nearby University of Florida at Gainesville, for example, has a call center specializing in political polling. Formerly staffed by students, the polling center had constant employee turnover. With Leslie’s help, the call center learned about older workers who were more interested and informed in the various topics.
- Kelly Folks, a manager at the Arapahoe-Douglas Works in Littleton, Colorado, has set up a separate resource center, Generations@Work, for the unemployed older people she serves. It offers one-on-one counseling, job listings from senior employee-friendly companies, guest speakers, computer classes and a Linkedin.com basics workshop. All of the center’s materials have the same tag line, "A Resource for Prime Talent," emphasizing the market advantages for older workers and the demand for them.
Two of the speakers, Payne and Leslie, represent WIBs that have received grants through the AARP Foundation Recession Recovery program. AARP Foundation Income Impact manager Lori Strauss organized the workshop, which was moderated by Judith Gilbert from the Employment and Training Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor.