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Aging of the American Workforce: Trends, Opportunities, Challenges. 1. Why WIA/One-Stops Should Pay Attention to Older Workers 2. Why Employers Should be Concerned. It's A Demographic Revolution. IMPLICATIONS FOR EMPLOYERS. The country is growing older, and the workforce along with it

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Aging of the American Workforce: Trends, Opportunities, Challenges

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Aging of the American Workforce: Trends, Opportunities, Challenges

1. Why WIA/One-Stops Should Pay Attention to Older Workers

2. Why Employers Should be Concerned

It's A Demographic Revolution


  • The country is growing older, and the workforce along with it

  • As the baby boom reaches retirement age, there will be fewer young adults entering the workforce to replace them

  • These trends will have economic and productivity consequences, putting a strain on business/industry

  • Continuous work at some level (ft/pt) - increasingly important & desirable for older people and society as a whole


  • Radically different than it was for previous generations

  • Today: healthier, better educated, more willing to work into the later years

  • Chronology = Competence

    To stay competitive as new sources of labor become scarce, employers must not overlook this talented and largely untapped employee base

The U.S. Workforce is Aging

  • Baby Boomers come of age

    • 30% of Americans are boomers (83 million)

    • By 2025 20% of Americans will be 65+

  • By 2005:

    • median worker age 41

    • workers 45+ will comprise 40% of the workforce

  • Workforce will continue to age through 2015 oldest boomers begin to retire

  • The Economy is Hot[or at least luke-warm]

    • Local labor markets extremely tight

    • 1998-2008: BLS projects 14% increase in employment

    • Pay scales driven higher; benefit packages increasing

    • Companies beginning to look to new sources of labor supply


    • Growing indication the early retirement trend is leveling off

      • Growth in jobs/declining unemployment creates demand for all workers

      • Increasing popularity of bridge jobs (gradual retirement)


    • 9 million boomers (today aged 35-54) did not graduate from high school

      • incomes 12% lower than for similarly educated persons in their parents’ generation

      • US will soon see an increase in the number of poor, aging adults

  • As the tail of the “bulge” reaches age 45, low-income mature workers will soon increase by 25% [from 8 to 10 million]

  • Florida (the retirement state) today:

    18% of population 65+

    U.S. in 2025: states

    with at least 18% of population 65+


    • Dependency ratio

      • 1950: 7 working age persons to 1 elderly person

      • 2030: ratio will dwindle to less than 3 to 1

  • Increasing work participation rate of older Americans would:

    • add to the productivity of the workforce

    • alleviate strains on the US economy

    • increase private saving and reduce the burden on public resources through higher tax revenues


    • As workers retire, the economy loses valuable work experience

    • Improvement in work-readiness of young workers needed to meet ever-higher skill requirements of the economy cannot be taken as a given

    • Older workers are productive, reliable, trainable, with a high work ethic and customer service focus


    • Key factor to productivity (of all workers) is skill level and training

    • For most mature Americans there are few physical or cognitive barriers to work and learning new skills

    • Employers and workers must both work towards closing the technology training gap

    Age & Income Affect Training Needs

    Common stereotypes portray older workers as:

    • Harder to train

    • Less able to keep up with technological change

    • Less promotable

    • Less motivated

    Older Workers are not a Homogenous Lot

    Different needs … Different strategies

    • Dislocated workers

    • Women [displaced homemakers]

    • Low income

    Training Implications

    • Training for older workers needs to be slowed down

    • Vision and hearing changes require attention

    • Older workers prefer less formal seating arrangements

    • Training proceeds better in comfortable classroom environments

    • Shorter sessions are more effective

    • The training class is best when kept small

    Some Things to Remember

    • Older people perform better on self-paced tests than they do on timed tests

    • When both words and pictures (graphics) are used, older persons can retain 6 times more information

    • It’s much easier for older people to see yellow, orange & red than darker colors

    • Greater levels of illumination are needed (an average 60 yr. old’s eye admits only  as much light as a 20 yr. old)

    The Training Process

    • Training focus should be on the gains of experience

    • Older workers learn what they think they need to learn

    • Trainees need help with self-confidence and self-esteem issues

    • Older trainees value non-verbal rather than verbal training

    • Adults learn by doing

    • The training process should be slowed down --- self paced learning works best

    • Training should have ample opportunities for practice

    • Testing should be used sparingly

    • Relate training to skills already possessed




    Audio Visual



    Practice (experiential)

    Average Retention Rate







    Adults Learn by Doing

    Barriers to Labor Market Participation

    • Government policies and practices

      • Financial incentives to retire

      • Health care

  • Public/Private Employer policies and practices

    • Age stereotypes

    • Pensions

    • Training and retraining

  • Individual barriers

    • Rapid technological change (new occupations/skills)

  • Promising Program and Practices

    SCSEP (Title V of the OAA) is a viable One-Stop Partner to Meet Demographic Needs

    • 100,000 served, 35,000 placed annually

    • Outreach & recruitment

    • Counseling

    • Assessment, IDP development

    • Subsidized work experience & training

    • Job development & placement


    Working Together to Meet GoalsAs a partner, SCSEP can ...

    • Provide training to One-Stop staff to prepare them to better serve older workers

    • Ensure specialized assistance is available for older workers to effectively utilize the One-Stops [staffing strategies]

    • Ensure One-Stops accommodate the special needs of older workers

    • Assist One-Stop job developers to include job opportunities for older workers

    • Ensure One-Stops have necessary linkages & partnerships to ensure availability of specialized training for older workers

    • System linkages to facilitate access to support services needed by older workers

    • Assist One-Stops with an outreach & recruitment plan that includes older workers and minority older workers

    • Assign project participants to serve as mentors to school-to-work and welfare-to-work participants

    • Provide employer linkages

    An Older Worker Policy Makes Good Business & Political Sense

    Demographic and Economic Imperative:

    • Employers facing labor force drop-off due to retirements will have to adapt in some way

      Political Imperative:

    • Extending work lives may help reduce younger workers’ burden supporting retirees (Social Security & Medicare)

      The SCSEP as your partner can assist you in meeting the needs of older job seekers.



    DoL/ETA Technical Assistance Guides

     Using the Workforce Investment Act to Serve Mature and Older Workers

     One-Stop Training Curriculum for Older Worker Specialists

     Different Needs, Different Strategies: A Manual for Training Low-Income Older Workers

     An Employer’s Guide to Older Workers: How to Win Them Back and Convince Them to Stay



    To obtain (free) copies of Technical Assistance Guides, contact:

    David Richardson

    US Department of Labor, D/OWP

    200 Constitution Ave., NW

    Rm N4644

    Washington, DC 20010

    • Phone: 202-693-3757

    • Fax: 202-693-3818

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