It's a double whammy, said Philip Levine of the National Employment Law Project. Older unemployed workers have a bigger employment gap and a résumé that gives away their age. And, if you're not working, it's not very likely that you're still going to be able to sock money away for your retirement. In fact, you're lucky if you don't dip into those retirement savings to help you meet your day-to-day expenses.
We can't change what happened, and we won't stop age discrimination overnight either. But given the devastating effects of unemployment both emotionally and financially, we should be doing a better job in helping older people find work again. To that end, AARP Foundation is supporting an innovative program at The WorkPlace, a nonprofit in Connecticut that helps long-term unemployed workers get back to work by subsidizing their earnings for their first eight weeks on a new job.
The WorkPlace, which received a $200,000 recession relief grant last December, instituted a program in 2011 called Platform to Employment for the 99ers, workers whose unemployment has run out (usually after 99 weeks). The Foundation's funds are earmarked for people 50-plus in the Platform to Employment program. The opportunity will allow them to show hiring companies firsthand the considerable skills they've gained after years of employment.
The Platform to Employment program is comprehensive. Being out of a job for at least 99 weeks doesn't do much to inspire self-confidence, so after receiving a career evaluation and skills test, the older workers go through a five-week training program, where they learn interview skills, how to condense their employment history into a two-page résumé and — most important — how much they have to offer an employer. After this, The Workplace will steer them to job openings in organizations that have agreed to take part in the eight-week program. It gives employers a risk-free way to try out a new employee, but it's up to the participant to land the job. Since the program began, 59 people have done so.
Although it's a fairly new program, both 60 Minutes and CNN Money have already aired features about the Platform to Employment program and the unemployed people it helps. What's more, in this age of diminishing government funding, the program is funded entirely by donations from companies, nonprofits and individuals. Our hope is that Platform to Employment will not only thrive in Connecticut and help hundreds of older people get back to work, but that organizations in other states will replicate Platform to Employment to help older 99ers demonstrate their value and get back on the payroll.
Also of interest: Protecting seniors from fraud and scams.