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At the same time that many 50+ workers are raising children and helping aging parents, over three million are looking for full-time employment. The Great Recession has left Americans age 50+ facing the largest overall increase in long-term unemployment, the longest spells of joblessness and the least likelihood of finding a job. Older women bear the greater share of this burden: 60% of women 65 and older have incomes insufficient to cover basic, daily expenses.
50+ jobseekers need help gaining skills, finding jobs and building financial security. One promising approach is to encourage existing community intermediaries — like community colleges and workforce investment boards — to put new emphasis on helping 50+ workers find new and better jobs. The AARP Foundation’s BACK TO WORK 50+ program is supporting over 20 sites across the country as they build programs and services targeting 50+ workers. BACK TO WORK 50+ connects 50+ workers with information, training, support, work experience, and employer access they need to get back into the workforce and sustain their income through employment. Early results suggest that this approach may bear fruit, as thousands of 50+ job seekers have called the AARP Foundation’s national toll-free hotline just in 2014.
BACK TO WORK 50+ supports community colleges and workforce investment boards that are helping 50+ workers overcome barriers to finding better jobs through:
AARP Foundation is developing partnerships with national and local organizations to expand the reach of the BACK TO WORK 50+ initiative.
BACK TO WORK 50+ is targeting 50+ workers who were previously employed in working class and moderate income jobs and whose educational attainment and lack of computer skills present barriers to employment in jobs that lead to better economic security. BACK TO WORK 50+ focuses on workers ages 50-64 that are not eligible for programs like SCSEP because of their age (SCSEP serves 55+) or their income.
With alarming statistics on the number of older unemployed Americans seeking work in mind, AARP Foundation announced the expansion of its BACK TO WORK 50+ initiative through a new collaboration with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and with generous support from Walmart Foundation in 2014. BACK TO WORK 50+ is dedicated to moving low income, unemployed men and women age 50+ from instability to stability by increasing their income through employment in good jobs in their communities.
The BACK TO WORK 50+: Women’s Economic Stability Initiative (WESI) is a program model developed by AARP Foundation to help unemployed and underemployed women aged 50 to 64 gain the confidence, skills and opportunities they need to find full-time employment, improve their financial capability and avoid poverty later in life.
Community colleges that are effective and trusted leaders in their communities are well positioned to anchor this initiative. Higher education has long been a resource for older adult women and we believe that collaborating with colleges will allow us to collectively build a model to be even more effective in helping this often ignored population secure work and reach financial security. By identifying and evaluating the most effective integrated services that provide job search strategies, training and support for moving older adult women from vulnerability to stability, we set the stage to scale the program across the community college system as well as adapt the model to other systems in underserved communities.
In 2014, AARP Foundation received a Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to serve as an intermediary grantmaking organization that will identify, support and monitor five community colleges that are selected to implement and evaluate the BACK TO WORK 50+: WESI.