For years I’ve heard from older constituents in the West Valley and on the Peninsula who want to re-enter the workforce. Perhaps they’ve taken time off to raise a family, are looking to shift careers, or might have suffered a layoff.
These are folks who have a lot to offer—skills and work experience, and often an impressive resume. What they often run into, however, is a stigma surrounding older workers—in other words, age discrimination.
This isn’t just a Silicon Valley problem, it’s a national problem. And as we live and work longer, it’s only going to become more pronounced: In 2000, the ratio of older workers (55+) participating in the U.S. labor force was 13 percent; by 2050, that number is projected to increase to 24 percent.
Fortunately, we’ve had some real success with the County supported Mature Worker Job Coaching Program offered by Peninsula Family Service (PFS). It’s a program I’ve championed and am proud of.
Every year since 2017, the program has helped hundreds of Santa Clara County residents—at no cost to them—up their job search game through individual coaching, group workshops, and peer support.
Participants have ranged in age from 50 to their early 80s, and the jobs they seek run the gamut from entry level retail and administration to executive roles in tech, marketing, finance, and other industry sectors. Because PFS partners with NOVAworks Job Center—a federally funded employment and training agency—participants also have abundant job-related resources as part of the package.
If there was ever a time to welcome mature workers back into the workforce, it’s now. Because of the pandemic, it’s harder to find people to work in many sectors of the economy.
In the same vein, the Mature Worker Program has had recruitment challenges because older adults have been understandably nervous about going in to work during COVID.
But we’re in a different place than we were a year ago, with vaccines and boosters readily available, established workplace safety protocols, and more remote work options.
To highlight the many benefits of the Mature Worker Program for both employers and prospective employees, on January 27 I’ll be hosting a webinar, “Mature Workers: Vital to Today’s Diverse Labor Force,” featuring a panel of Silicon Valley labor market specialists (signup info is below).
“The real barrier mature workers need help with is knowing they can overcome age stereotypes,” said Anne van Tonningen, Mature Worker Program Career Advisor.
That’s the program’s ‘secret sauce’—empowering participants through:
- One-on-one coaching, including real-time practice of interviewing skills.
- Workshops on topics germane to today’s workplace, like navigating the multi-generational workforce, managing career transitions, and age neutral resumes and social media profiles.
- Facilitated peer group support discussions relevant to mature workers.
“What I hear over and over from participants is that their confidence in what they have to offer the labor force really morphed during this program,” van Tonningen explained. “Initially they might be thinking, ‘Who’s going to hire me? I’m 60, 65 years old.’ They come out believing in their abilities, confident, and knowing how to conduct an effective job search. The age issue fades to the background.”
This is a great time for mature workers to be looking for work—it’s more of a job-seekers market right now, and employers, whether they have age biases or not, need skilled, good people.
Those in the later part of their lives are lucky if they have choices on how to spend their more mature years. If you choose to work, we want to make sure you can do that without discrimination. If working is a necessity, we want to make sure you have the best shot possible at success. We can’t afford to let anyone’s talent go to waste.
If you’re over age 50—or have friends and family—looking to enter or re-enter the workforce, I hope you’ll join me, Peninsula Family Services, and NOVAworks on Zoom, Thursday, Jan. 27, from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Sign up online at district5.sccgov.org/matureworkers, or give my office a call at (408) 299-5050.
Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors
This article was originally published in The Outlook in January 2022.