By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune enterprise editor
With an expected 25 percent of the work force over the age of 55 by the end of the next decade, work is needed to ensure the age bracket has necessary skills and that employers are willing to hire them.
That was Amy Sherman’s message during the Region 4 WorkOne annual meeting last week at Elite Banquet Center.
Working with the Chicago-based Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, Sherman was the featured speaker of the event.
Region 4 — which covers Howard, Miami, Tipton, Cass, Carroll and seven other counties — is one of only 10 areas in the country participating in the Aging Worker Initiative. Funded with private and public dollars, the initiative trains workers who are
55-plus for jobs in high-growth, high-demand industries.
Between 2009 and 2011, 2.5 million workers between the ages 55 and 64 lost jobs due to the economic recession.
“Mature workers have a lower unemployment rate, but they’re out of work longer,” she said. “There are a lot of people looking for work who can bring a lot to the table.”
Indiana’s population is older than average. It’s a trend expected to continue, according to the 2020 Census estimates, which predict the state’s population of 55- to 74-year-olds will grow by almost 500,000. The good news, she said, is that people are wanting to work longer before retiring.
Sherman said 24 percent of all workers planned to increase their retirement age, and the same percentage intended to work until 70 before retiring.
There are many misconceptions surrounding mature workers, Sherman said, adding employers have shared their causes of concern as the cost of training and lack of required skills.
“There is a fear by older workers about the ability to embrace and adopt to new technology,” Sherman said.
There are ways to correct misconceptions, including reverse job fairs and internships.
“At a reverse job fair, the employer takes the role of job seeker,” Sherman said. “It was done successfully in Kokomo and Lafayette. Through subsidized internships, the aging workers gets work experience for six months. It opens a new career path and 50 percent of those in an internship ended up with jobs.”
Sherman said mature workers are assets that need to be utilized in the work force.