This article appeared in the Oct. 27, 2006 Jewish Advocate.
Older workers fit new workplace trends
By Susie Davidson
The generation that came into being following World War II continues to chart new courses and blaze new ground. With a collective vitality as strong as their numbers, those born between 1946 and 1964 have distinguished themselves in many fields. Baby Boomers, perhaps the best educated of all recent generations, are not about to rest upon laurels, and increasingly, employers are happy to help them stay productive.
AARP's 2004 study, Staying Ahead of the Curve, states that 45 percent of workers want to continue working later in life, 84 percent even if financially well off. Working respondents cited peace of mind, enjoyment and sense of purpose. In the report, AARP Arizona State Director David Mitchell called it a smart move for employers as well: "For starters, employers retain experienced and skilled workers who know the job and their corporate culture," he said. "They serve as mentors and trainers for new hires." The report noted strong employer loyalty among workers over 45 years of age.
“Studies show that more than half the generation born between 1946 and 1964 have no intention of becoming full-time golfers, sailing mavens and tourists," said John Meeks, president of Vedior Professional Services. "They intend to keep on working either full-time or part-time. And why not?" Vedior, located in the Financial District, is a recruiting and staffing service for the financial, accounting, human resources and legal sectors, and is comprised of the national agencies AccountPros, Human Resources International (HRI), and Compliance Inc.
Workforce myths are being blown in the face of new realities. For one, mandatory retirement has become voluntary. According to AARP, seven in 10 Americans plan to work past the once-typical retirement age of 65, and nearly half are expecting to work well into their 70s and even 80s. Contrary to common perception, the U.S. workforce is getting older rather than younger, and given an expanding service sector, an impending worker shortage is anticipated. Although employment-related age bias certainly, unfortunately exists, AARP predicts that 20 percent of the workforce will be 55 years old and older by 2015, as compared to 13 percent in 2000.
Boston College economics professor Joseph Quinn, who is a fellow at the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) in Washington , attributes this rise in older workers to the fact that there are simply more employment options out there now. He stresses a need for computing and IT technologies to keep pace, and strive for greater accessibility. Older workers also indirectly benefit from governmental legislation that aids the disabled. IBM recently partnered with SeniorNet to create “Web Adaptation Technology,” which enhances readability of Web pages and improves facilitation of keyboards, browsers and applications.
According to NurseVillage.com’s city guide, Boston ’s second largest population group is the 35 to 55-year-old Boomers. With many “empty nesters“ moving to the city from the suburbs, often into lofts or townhouses close to work and to cultural centers, they are literally helping to revive urban life.
“From a staffing perspective, we're actually seeing a predominance of the multi-generational workforce,” says Alice Stein, Vedior's Marketing Director. “This includes Seniors, Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y,“ she said, “with each subset offering a very unique work ethic and perception of loyalty at the workplace.“
Stein, a Jewish immigrant from Russia , is also affiliated with the Boston Women’s Network, a progressive women's organization that helps women achieve financial, business, and personal success. She cited the findings of a Deloitte Consulting survey. “One-third of US companies expect to lose 11 percent of their workforce by 2008 to the retirement of baby boomers,” she said. But ironically, Stein says that these talent shortages pressure older workers to keep working. “We are seeing a surge in the use of 'contingent' staff in the accounting, finance, legal and IT sectors,“ she says. “Oftentimes, Boomers are looking for another challenge, and a means for capitalizing on their industry expertise."
Jewish Vocational Services‘ “Career Moves” has traditionally offered career and employment services to the entire Jewish community, says its director, Judy Sacks. “This ranges from recent college graduates who need assistance in starting their careers, to professionals across the spectrum of careers, to older workers, many of whom have been victims of a declining economy.” However, following a 2005 study conducted by the JVS Board’s Jewish Services Committee and its staff, the mission has changed. “Our analysis reflected structural changes in the economy,” she said. These included the disappearance and outsourcing of some jobs; the need for new technology to adapt quickly and keep skills current; the use of the Internet for job search; the aging of the workforce and some corresponding age discrimination; the loss of job security and need for multiple employers; the rising cost of living in Greater Boston; and the need for increased services provided by one-stop career centers and other providers.
Two groups within the Jewish community have been targeted as most in need of their services: economically vulnerable Jews, and mature workers over 45 years of age. Sacks said that Career Moves now aims to “assist members of the Jewish community to find satisfying work that provides enough income to support themselves and their families.”
“We developed a program design with services for meeting these two priorities,” she said. “These included rationale, goals, objectives, services and planned outcomes. We developed new materials, trained staff and launched new service designs, to begin in the FY2006 program year.”
Among Career Moves’ range of services are career counseling; interest and aptitude testing; peer support groups; job search assistance (which includes resume critique and preparation; networking strategies; interview preparation; assistance in developing a job search strategy); job referral; and a bi-monthly workshops on career and job search topics. In addition, a Jewish Women’s Mentoring Network matches professional women with other professional women for mentoring and guidance, and the Career Advisory Network, with 200 volunteer members, provides networking and informational interviews in a wide range of fields.
“Career Moves at JVS has a trained and experienced staff who are able to help the wide spectrum of mature workers, some of whom want and need full/part time jobs now; some who want to create 'passion and purpose' in their lives by finding a new career or combining paid and unpaid work; some who want to do some 'introspective' self-assessment; as well as those who need specific tools like new resumes, networking contacts, a career mentor or advisor, referrals, interview practice, coaching, etc.,” said Sacks, who added that Boston JVS is one of a select number of JVS communities nationwide taking an active role in positioning the International Association of Jewish Vocational Services (IAJVS) to be a "player" at the national conversation on boomers.
"As our workforce ages and as more workers continue into their later years, we should promote the idea to employers that turning away a mature worker is a waste of human capital," says Mitchell. "There will be people who do not want to work or can't. But given the desire to work and the ability to do a good job, consider the value mature workers add to their employers, to themselves, their families, and to society."