The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that as the American population ages and baby boomers begin to retire, new professionals will be needed to replace those who transition or exit the workforce. However, for some 50-year-olds who are searching for employment, continuing education and job training is essential for staying competitive in the job market. Job training for middle-age and elderly workers is offered through nonprofit organizations, community colleges and universities.
Job training for mature workers not only helps organizations retain talented employees, but also avoid the cost and time typically spent recruiting new, qualified personnel. As workers age, their job skills can become irrelevant with the passage of time and advancements in industry technologies. Addressing these deficiencies with job training allows middle-age and senior workers to pass along their skills and knowledge to younger employees entering the field.
The curriculum for mature professionals depends on the institution and the program's objectives. For example, Emory University offers a plethora of education options for students 50 and older at its Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The institute’s summer 2011 course schedule included poetry, history, fine art, yoga and health education courses. Job training courses such as basic computing for seniors covered topics such as using a mouse and keyboard and best practices for navigating the Internet. Other schools and nonprofit organizations combine vocational training in basic math, writing and reading skills, as well as job skills training in interviewing, communicating and business writing. Operation A.B.L.E. of Greater Boston provides sales and customer service training, as well as job search assistance.
Requirements for job training programs base student eligibility on factors such as age and citizenship status. While university programs such as the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute explicitly target their programs to students 50 and older, Operation A.B.L.E. in Boston offers skills development classes to students as young as 18. Job training ranges from courses on potential careers in renewable energy to basic typing. Classes for senior workers require students to be at least 55.
As workers continue to age, job training will have important consequences for the U.S. workforce. The Boston College January article “Public and Private Strategies for Assisting Older Workers” points to the growing segment of baby boomers who choose to continue working beyond traditional retirement age. Moreover, the article forecasts that as the proportion of elderly workers continues to increase, these employees will become more vulnerable to changes resulting from mergers, salary cuts and organizational restructuring. Job skills training for individuals 50 and older will be especially crucial in industries including transportation services, real estate, education and mining. Shortages of talent due to workers who retire or leave the workforce will be most acute in these sectors, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.