In partnership with the National Council on Aging and the San Diego THRIVE! Advisory Board, the Insight Center for Community Economic Development is piloting a healthcare sector-focused workforce development initiative to help older adults in San Diego acquire occupation-specific training and good jobs in growing sectors of the economy, while also pursuing improvements to the aging and workforce development systems. We are currently seeking funding to expand this demonstration to other sites across the country and other industries.
Older workers around the country are struggling. Older job-seekers are less likely to find work, more likely to work involuntarily part-time or drop out of the labor force, and more likely to experience unemployment of a year or more. Those not yet eligible for Medicare and Social Security need employment income and health insurance now; and even those 65 and older who receive income supports and health coverage often fall short of being able to meet their basic needs. The bottom line: fewer and fewer older adults are able to make ends meet, and the consequences for their economic security are severe. Older job-seekers nationwide report adjusting plans for retirement and taking pay cuts. Both employed and unemployed older workers report forgoing medical care, accumulating credit card debt, and depleting savings just to make ends meet.(1)
Rigorous research has demonstrated that regional, industry-focused workforce partnerships, or "sector initiatives", are highly effective at increasing the earnings of low-income people. A multi-year, random-assignment study conducted by Public/Private Ventures showed that participants in sector-focused programs earned significantly more than randomly-selected control group members with similar characteristics, and they were significantly more likely to work in jobs with higher wages that offered benefits.(2) However, until now, this approach has not been widely used to specifically help older workers.
Older workers are the fastest-growing segment of the workforce, a trend that will only accelerate as the overall population ages. Moreover, even during times of high unemployment, employers need skilled, qualified workers to help their businesses thrive. By inquiring deeply into employer needs and designing a program that provides participants the specific skills required, the project offers employers what they most value: highly-qualified employees. At the same time, by providing occupation-specific training, coupled with holistic case management services and supports, the project will enable mature workers to find and keep jobs that lead to economic security.
The Insight Center has conducted research to inform a San Diego mature worker pilot program, including:
The research builds on the work of an engaged group of aging services and workforce development providers - including the local area aging agency on aging and workforce investment board - dedicated to helping older San Diegans reenter the workforce. This group, as well as other local and national experts on aging services and sector-focused workforce development, forms the project's Advisory Board.
In San Diego, the Insight Center is working with local partners to implement a comprehensive healthcare sector initiative pilot project, informed by the research and Advisory Board.
Nationally, the Insight Center is seeking partners to expand this demonstration to other parts of the country. If proven effective in different settings, we will work in coalition to advocate that policymakers sustain this strategy over time and make necessary systemic changes to better serve mature workers in the future.
For more information about THRIVE!, contact Susie Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1)Sloan Center on Aging and Work, "The New Unemployables: Older Job-Seekers Struggle to Find Work During the Great Recession"
(2)Public/Private Ventures, "Tuning in to Local Labor Markets: Findings from the Sectoral Employment Impact Study"