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Best Employers for Workers 50+

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Question. I’ve been looking for a fulltime job for the past year and a half.  A few small contracts have kept me busy, but don’t pay enough to cover my living expenses.  Sad to say, my plan is to return to Canada since I just can’t make it here. I wonder, are U.S. employers really hiring workers older than 55?   D.L.

Dear D.L.: Your problem is a complex one.

In today’s economy, it is possible to do everything right yet still not find a fulltime position with adequate pay.  There are at least three obstacles to employment for older adults:  fewer fulltime available jobs, subtle forms of age discrimination in hiring and extended time out of work which lessens the chance of landing a job.

The national statistics are not too encouraging.  The AARP Public Policy Institute reports the unemployment rate for those 55 and older dipped slightly from July to August – from 6.9 percent to 6.6 percent.  That still left 2.1 million people 55+ out of work in August.  The average length of time they were unemployed was just above one year.  Nearly 55 percent were out of work for 27 or more weeks.

Are employers hiring those in their 50’s and older? Well, some are.  The recent announcement of AARP’s winners for the Best Employers for Workers over 50 gives us some hope. These annual awards began 10 years age and are given to businesses and organizations that have implemented new and innovative policies and practices in talent management.  Their motivation makes sense.

By 2016, one third of the U.S. workforce will be age 50 and older.  That’s an increase from the 28 percent in 2007.  At the same time, the number of younger workers entering the labor force will decline.  The challenge will be for employers to attract and retain talent.  And some of that  talent comes from experienced mature workers.

I have been fortunate to have served as one of the judges for the Best Employer competition since its inception in 2001.  That first year there were about 17 applicants.  This year 50 companies were named as best employers.

The awards are based on recruitment policies, workplace culture, learning opportunities, health and financial benefits, opportunities for retirees and more.  The winners scored high on many of these variables.  A few are identified for the three winning companies in Southern California.

Ranked number one was Scripps Health of San Diego.  Among their many recognized strengths is their “Guide to Mapping Retirement” as a printed and electronic toolkit.  They also use a senior placement agency to target mature workers and retirees.  Thirty-six percent of their employees are 50 and over.

Aerospace in El Segundo is a winner for the ninth consecutive year.  The company was recognized for their Retiree Casual Pool Program.  Retirees can work up to 999 hours a year at their same salary and also receive benefits.  This long standing program has served as a national prototype for policies and practices for phased retirement.  Aerospace also was recognized for their workplace culture, continued opportunities for learning and medical benefits.  Sixty-one percent of their employees are 50 or older.

The University of Southern California is a winner.  Their Emeriti Center was recognized for their support to retirees and pre-retirees to live healthy and purposeful lives through continued service and learning.  The Trojan ENCORE, one of USC’s distinctive programs, brings retirees back to campus for short-term and part-time paid and volunteer positions.  USC also was recognized for their workplace culture, continued opportunities, financial benefits and alternative work arrangements.  Thirty-six percent of USC employees are 50 and over.

In reviewing the industries represented by the winners, two areas were dominant:   health care including hospitals and medical centers and universities.  These are indicators of industries that are either retaining their mature workers, hiring them or both.

To see other winners and learn about their policies and practices regarding 50+ employees go

D.L., here are just a few reminders before you leave for Canada:    continue to network, retain or upgrade skills, brush up on resume writing and interviewing, and network some more.  You also might consider a combination of part-time positions – a least for a while.

Thank you for your good question and hopefully there will still be an opportunity for you to work in the U.S.

Note:  Given my long standing relationship with USC, I recused myself in judging their application to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest.

Copyright 2011 Helen Dennis. All rights reserved.

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