In January 2010 nearly 2 million Americans 55+ were searching for work, but could not find any. The reality for our young people is that competition in the work force is fierce; we are becoming a meritocracy where higher education such as Master degrees and MBAs are pursued before really getting out into the working world, whereas 55+ workers have some of the most richly diverse work backgrounds. These experiences are being undervalued when potentially these multi-disciplinary and perspectives could mean renewed creativity and innovation for our country. September 19 – 25 is National Employ Older Workers Week. It was first recognized in the Eisenhower Administration, and its activities focus on recognizing the importance of the participation of older workers in the labor force. This is an important opportunity for elected officials, employers, and the general public to highlight the vital role of older workers in the current labor force and the continuing importance of the participation of older workers in meeting the employment needs of our 21st century economy. By 2014, nearly half of Americans age 55 or older will be participating in the labor force, making up over 21 percent of the workforce. This population of mature workers includes individuals who are retiring their first/previous careers at younger ages and want second careers, individuals who want to work beyond age 65, and those individuals that want additional sources of income, but not necessarily a full time job. We talk about the silver tsunami, the influence of the wave of 50+ consumers, but the members of these cohorts are not the face of the work force, but should be. National Employ Older Workers Week provides us an opportunity to increase awareness and focus on development of innovative strategies for tapping into this underutilized labor pool that can help address the challenge posed by potential worker shortages. For 45 years the Department of Labor’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) has help those age 55 and older with limited financial resources get job training and placement. This program has helped more than one million people enter the job market each year by providing workforce services to older Americans and exploring ways for older workers to respond to the rapidly changing skills demands of business. Americans aged 55 or older are a dedicated and experienced core of our workforce. Their contributions to the nation as paid workers and volunteers in both the private and public sectors are immeasurable. To learn more about the National Council on Aging’s SCSEP program, and to view a compelling video of those they have helped through their program, click here.
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