Friday, April 17, 2009

NYT: Older Workers Need Not Apply

The New York Times asked an almost provocative question on their commentary site this week: “Why do employers shun older workers?” Overwhelming responses forced the site to pick and choose which ones to feature and a few experts put in their two cents, as well.

One perspective not mentioned is that of former blue collar workers unable to work in manual labor after a certain point. For these older workers, extra training is necessary to get them into current skilled positions that are not physically challenging. To help with this dilemma, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is allocating $1 billion from the recovery package in community service grants to help fund training opportunities, and the Senior Community Services Employment Program also will receive additional money to train and employ older workers specifically.

The current workforce culture, in general, is not older-worker friendly and does not provide much schedule flexibility. Older workers are sometimes shunned because of their perceived lack of efficiency and desire for flexible schedules. In reality, older workers perform better than younger workers in a variety of areas, including interpersonal skills and attendance, according to Peter Cappelli, the director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School.

Unemployed older workers, who are not economically secure, now more than ever, need jobs with quality wages because of loss of finances in the economic downturn and the limited time to recuperate. Without the change of the workforce culture, though, it will be difficult to meet the needs of older workers, even when they do get hired.

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