Older Workers Training for the Future
In my day job at Santa Fe College in North Florida, I help people prepare for and obtain jobs that provide economic stability. National studies indicate that the average wage needed by a single person is nearly $15 per hour, but in Florida, the minimum wage is $8.10. For many people, that means getting training for a higher-paying position.
The program I work for, BACK TO WORK 50+: Women’s Economic Stability Initiative, is open to everyone, but our target population is women between the ages of 50 and 64. People in this demographic are at high risk for economic instability, and so the AARP Foundation stepped in with this initiative. We’re also part of a national study on effective strategies for helping older workers secure sustainable employment.
For older workers, training in new skills, and updating existing skills, can be the critical element in achieving career success.The following article about why and how appeared in our local newspaper, the Gainesville Sun.
Older workers may need to update skills
By Michele Leavitt Special to The Sun
Following national and international trends, our local workforce includes an increasing number of older workers. People are choosing to retire later, and some who retire end up returning to the workplace.
The Department of Labor estimates that 35 percent of the American labor force will be over 50 years of age by 2022. Ensuring that our older workers can get or keep good jobs is more important than ever to our community’s overall economic and social well-being.
Older adults can take a crucial step to enhance their confidence and their employability by engaging with training. An updated skill set can expand the employment options available, and it can also boost the first impression a job seeker makes with a prospective employer. Once hired, skills training and education can lead to increased job satisfaction and job performance.
Older workers bring many benefits to the workplace, including experience, loyalty and a strong work ethic. Still, they can face discrimination based on fears that they are slower and less effective than younger adults, or that they will be uncomfortable reporting to younger managers. These fears, however, have proved to be exaggerated. The U.S. Department of Labor has demonstrated that older workers have both the capacity and the willingness to learn.
Ongoing training, especially in fast-changing technology, is a feature of today’s work environment for employees of any age. Many older job seekers need training and education in high-demand skills, like computer software, to stay or become competitive in today’s job market. Some older career-changers may also need general education training before they can succeed with specialized training for high-tech, knowledge-based careers.
In our community, Back to Work 50+ at Santa Fe College collaborates with AARP Foundation, the Social Innovation Fund, the Women’s Giving Circle and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation to help older workers qualify for high-demand jobs. Scholarships for classes and free workshops on today’s job search strategies are available to those who join the program.
Back to Work 50+ at Santa Fe College has been active since March 2015 and has provided free training to more than 100 individuals. Program participants have taken classes in business management, phlebotomy, computer programming, insurance, education and other professions that are in demand in our community. All program participants have the option to also attend basic computer and Microsoft Word software training at no cost. This basic training is offered in a group classroom setting, with teachers also available for one-on-one coaching.
Information collected by the program in its first 18 months of operation shows that participants who sign up for classes are more likely to be hired than those who do not. This is in line with recent studies showing modest returns on vestment for displaced workers who attend community college, but more research is needed to identify winning strategies for mature workers to get and keep jobs that will support them.
Back to Work 50+ at Santa Fe College is participating in the national evaluation to expand the impact of innovative, community-based solutions that improve the lives of people in low-income communities throughout the United States. Participants in the program will not only benefit themselves; they will also be a part of a national study aimed at helping older workers achieve economic stability and job satisfaction.
A new session begins in February. Contact program coordinator Carolyn Das at (352) 395–5184 to get involved.
- Michele Leavitt works for the Women’s Economic Stability Initiative at Santa Fe.