Ageism and the Mature Jobseeker

By Klein-Collins, Rebecca; Snyder, Phyllis | Aging Today, March/April 2011 | Go to article overview

Ageism and the Mature Jobseeker


Klein-Collins, Rebecca, Snyder, Phyllis, Aging Today


When Michelle, a 63-year-old worker from Washington was recently laid off, she worried she'd never find another job at her age. And she was right. For months, she pursued leads and heard nothing back. Finally, she sought help from the state's WorkSource Center. She was offered an opportunity to learn new skills, and finished four computer-training courses.

Michelle's story is an increasingly common one. At an age when she could be coasting toward retirement, Michelle had to make herself more marketable to employers. Leading up to the recession, we saw increasing numbers of retirement-age workers delaying retirement and continuing to work well into their 60s and even 70s. For many, it was a choice: "I'm still healthy, I enjoy working, my job keeps me active and engaged with other people, so why not?" But during this recession, continuing to work past retirement age has become a financial necessity.

OLDER JOBSEEKERS IN DIRE STRAITS

Mature jobseekers face a number of challenges. Like Michelle, many lack the technology skills required in the workplace, and also face employers' age bias. Surveys of employers have revealed a clear reluctance to hire older workers. That reluctance, combined with the decrease in available jobs, has resulted in a dire situation for mature jobseekers.

The most recent data show that older jobseekers stay unemployed about 30% longer than their younger counterparts, and greater percentages of older unemployed workers remained unemployed for a year or more. When asked why they have a harder time finding a job, these older workers firmly believe that age discrimination is the main factor. (See sidebar for findings from recent studies.)

These issues can be compounded wim mature women workers. Older women often appear to have less work experience than men because mey have taken time off to attend to family issues, or have found meaningful work later in life. As a result, mey may have a harder time convincing employers mat mey have me necessary skills and competencies. Once employed, recent research has shown that the gender pay gap is even greater for older women - they earn only 68 cents to every dollar earned by men the same age.

TRAINING HELP FOR MATURE WORKERS

In recent years, many programs nationwide have been designed to connect mature workers to skills training and work opportunities, reach out to employers to sell them on the contributions and value of mature workers, and help mose wanting to start their own businesses.

Some programs have been launched by postsecondary education institutions, nonprofit organizations or public sector agencies. Since 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor and The Atlantic Philanthropies have collaborated on a new mature worker initiative, which has provided funding and assistance to 10 grantees across the country. The grantees are developing strategies and programs to make their mature workforce an effective asset for their regional economies, and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning is working with the Council on Competitiveness to provide technical assistance to the different sites (for more information visit www. …

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