Are We Ready to Benefit from the Growth of the Mature Workforce?

Posted Wednesday, April 18th, 2012| Comments (6) rule
Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, Center Director, has served on the Advisory Committee to the Tapping Mature Talent project. She invited Phyllis Snyder and Michael Barth to be guest contributors to AGEnda.
Barth's photo Michael C. Barth, PhD
Economist and
Independent Consultant

Washington, D.C.


Snyder's photo Phyllis Snyder
Vice President
Phone: 215-731-7160

Everyone seems to know that Americans live in a rapidly aging society, but it helps to look at the numbers to get a sense of the magnitude of the changes we face. In 2010, 13% of the U.S. population was age 65 or older. The Census Bureau projects that by 2030, this figure will jump to 19.3%, or almost one in five. Of course, as the population ages, so does the labor force. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that in 2010 there were 30 million people aged 55 and older in the labor force; in 2020, this will swell to 41.4 million, or one in four. Now there are about seven million people age 65+ in the workforce. In contrast, over the next decade, as the number of those 65+ grows by 75%, the growth of those aged 25-54 will only be two percent.

In the U.S., we have gotten used to the idea of people going from full-time work to full-time retirement in their mid-sixties. However, we are now in a time when we will be seeing more mature workers continuing to participate in the labor market, whether out of financial need or out of continued ability and preference. This new trend promises greater financial security for older citizens and an opportunity to meet the skill and talent needs of employers.

Many mature workers will need help in navigating a very complex labor market, however. They will need counseling to understand what career pathways would be good for them, and to determine how to use education and training to get the right kind of job for this next stage in their work lives. Unfortunately, workforce development programs and postsecondary institutions currently design their programs for younger demographic groups. Mature workers are hard-pressed to find programs tailored to their needs.

Recognizing this problem, in 2009, the US Department of Labor supported a three-year Aging Worker Initiative (AWI). This initiative funded ten sites to test new models of serving mature workers. As this initiative comes to a close, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), which provided technical assistance for the project, will invite leading experts on the mature workforce to review what happened at the sites and develop a set of recommendations for policy makers and employers.

The best thinking of these experts will be presented at a conference in Washington, D.C., on May 3: Tapping Mature Talent: Policies for a 21st Century Workforce.

Here are a few recommendations that will be discussed:

  • Provide a basic level of financial literacy to workers to help them make good decisions that will affect their transition into retirement.
  • Engage employers and “sell” them on the contributions of mature workers through strategies such as internships, reverse job fairs and targeted outreach.
  • Reshape the public workforce system to provide access to high quality, affordable, and labor market driven education and training to help adults of all ages prepare for and remain in the labor market.

We need more creative thinking. What are your ideas? Please post your comments below or join us for the meeting on May 3rd in Washington, D.C.

6 responses to “Are We Ready to Benefit from the Growth of the Mature Workforce?”

  1. Phyllis and Michael,
    Thanks, you lay out the challenge ahead extremely well. Perhaps the biggest change that’s needed is within the heads of us “matures!
    1. What if we understood that “re-tire-ment” really means to put on a new set of tires and speed along on the autobahn of life?
    2. What if we threw out the silly mathematics of birthdays, simply adding a ONE to what we already have. That tells us nothing about what’s happened in the past year. Instead, let’s put candles on our cakes for all the new insights acquired during the year and celebrate our Wise Day! (instead).
    3. At 71 I finally know what I want to do when I grow up! We need to fundamentally redefine and rebuild our society/economy to break out of the stranglehold of the Industrial Era thinking. I hope many “mature” colleagues can join this effort.
    As a BC grade (doctoral program in Philosophy)I cheer on your efforts.
    Charles (from Munich)

  2. Barry Sullivan says:

    Like a marriage the answer to the question will rely on both parties, the worker and the employer, to come to some understanding of what each one needs and wants. And needs and wants are not the same thing. There numerous complex factors that will drive the future for those of us 50+ years old; will there be medical care available to us at a reasonable cost?….how will our 401k plans and whatever will be left of social security holding up?…will we make the smart decisions in our life necessary to live reasonably well on a modest income and have the time to volunteer, spend time with family and pursue those recreational options available to us?….or will we be living in a too big house with a too big mortgage seeking employment and income necessary to live day to day?…

    As noted in the preceding note, at 53 I am almost ready to determine what I want to be when I grow up and hope that I have the time left to make it happen. Thanks for the blog and your work.


  3. The mature workforce definitely has the experience to deal and tackle different situations and obstacles that the new won’t know.
    I personally believe it has to be a mixed blend of youth and experience that should help to work together and succeed.
    Yes,it may be a bit difficult to strike a balance with this mix,but would surely help in the long run of any organization.

  4. Iman says:

    To help seniors under the full reeetrmint age onSocial Security who have lost 40% to 60% of theirreeetrmint savings, there is currently a billintrodued in the U.S. House of Representives,Bill H.R. 322, to amend Title II of the SocialSecurity Act, to remove the limitation upon theamount of outside income which an individual mayearn while receiving benifit under such title.

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