A Protocol for Serving Older Workers
November 3, 2004

Our goal is to infuse the One-Stop Career Center system with innovative strategies for tapping into an underutilized labor pool. The strategies will help address potential worker shortages by providing workforce services to older Americans and exploring ways for engaging older workers in response to the rapidly changing skills demands of business.

By 2030, as the baby boom generation ages, 20 percent of the population, or about 70 million Americans, will be 65 or older, compared to 12 percent today. Given current immigration policies and retirement trends, combined with lower birth rates in recent years, the aging and retirement of the baby boom generation will likely result in a workforce that will be growing more slowly and becoming more diverse. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as the participation rate of older age groups increases, the older population's share of the workforce will also rise.1

Whether they are planning on starting a new career, continuing work in their current job, or searching for rewarding part-time work opportunities, mature workers, aged 55 and older, possess the essential qualities needed for today's jobs. Employers are beginning to recognize the value that older workers bring to the workplace including responsibility, loyalty, dedication, and their ability to be effective mentors to younger employees. Older workers' value lies in their attention to detail, emphasis on customer service, and the technical skills and experience they bring from the medical, engineering, and manufacturing fields.

Although the One-Stop system serves a significant number of older workers (5.6 percent of those served during Program Year 2002 were aged 55 and over 2), it has historically directed mature workers to the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). While the SCSEP is a valuable asset for serving older workers, it should not be the only option available to them. SCSEP, in fact, serves only low-income individuals aged 55 and older and has capacity to serve approximately one percent of the eligible population. This approach has limited business and industries' access to older workers and mature workers' choice with regards to the myriad of workforce investment services available for them through the One-Stop Career Centers. Mature workers provide One-Stop Career Centers with an invaluable asset for meeting the needs of their business customers. It is important for the workforce investment system to capitalize on this talented pool of workers by ensuring that the full array of One-Stop Career Center services are made available to them.

Our workforce investment system must be geared to serve a larger number of older workers by forging partnerships with business, industry and mature worker intermediaries to ensure successful placement of older workers in jobs and to rapidly respond to business demand. Businesses, on their part, need to develop strategies to attract and retain older workers, such as introducing alternative work arrangements and phased retirement programs.

The following outlines a set of action steps the various stakeholders need to embrace to achieve the stated goal of connecting employers to older workers and older workers to jobs.

The success of the strategies to provide better services to businesses and older workers revolves around the full engagement of the stakeholders' capacities and resources. In devising the respective protocol, six stakeholders have been identified:

  1. U.S. Department of Labor
  2. State Workforce Investment Boards
  3. Local Workforce Investment Boards
  4. One-Stop Career Centers
  5. Mature Worker Intermediaries and Service Providers
  6. Business and Industry

U.S Department of Labor

Proposed Action Steps:

State Workforce Investment Boards

Proposed Action Steps:

Local Workforce Investment Boards

Proposed Action Steps:

One-Stop Career Centers

Proposed Action Steps:

Mature Workers lntermediaries and Service Providers

Proposed Action Steps:

Businesses and Industry

Proposed Action Steps:

1 Toosi, M. (2004, February). Labor force projections to 2012: the graying of the US. workforce. Monthly Labor Review. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2 WIASRD data: http://www.doleta.gov/Performance/results/W IASRD/PY2002/WIA-Summary-02-adult.pdf