While many of us imagine our golden years as a time for leisure, a growing number of seniors are choosing to delay retirement and stay in the workforce longer. Some do it for the satisfaction that comes from working, while others do it out of economic necessity.
Nationally, 17.4% of seniors continue to participate in the labor force. With San Diego’s high cost of living, it’s no surprise to see people working here as long as they can – half of Americans age 55+ have no retirement savings, and the average social security benefit isn’t enough to live on.
But motivation and decades of experience aren’t always enough to land you a job. According to a report from the San Diego Workforce Partnership, seniors continue to face discrimination in the labor market – especially older women and people of color. Even though older workers are equally or more productive than younger workers, have better communication skills, and lower turnover rates, it is harder for them to get hired.
Employers are known to stigmatize unemployment among older workers who’ve been laid off, assuming they are deficient in skills rather than victims of budget cuts. Hiring discrimination can present such an obstacle that many older job seekers give up and retire early, leading to downward mobility in old age.
Enter the San Diego Workforce Partnership’s Aging Workforce Program to help older people connect to job opportunities and get back to work. The program offers skill-building workshops and refresher courses on digital literacy, resume writing, interview techniques, networking, and leveraging LinkedIn. Successful participants will have the opportunity for a paid 150-hour “returnship” – an internship for workers 60 and older wanting to return to the workforce – with a local employer.
The program’s inspiration came from our own Bob Kelly, who approached SDWP President and CEO Peter Callstrom with an idea to offer job training out of local senior centers. “The need for employment resources for older people is an issue that hasn’t received the attention it deserves,” said Kelly. “We are eager to help the Workforce Partnership develop new ideas to change that.”
San Diego Seniors Community Foundation connected the Workforce Partnership with local senior centers and secured funding from the Sahm Family Foundation for a pilot program that launched in October. With senior centers closed due to COVID-19, workshops are taught via Zoom, but senior center directors still play an important role in getting the word out and referring clients to the program.
“The Workforce Partnership wants older people to see their seniors centers as a job resource,” program case manager Tanitia Burks told a meeting of senior center directors last week. With many local seniors feeling the economic impacts of COVID-19, this partnership could not have come at a better time.
The Aging Workforce program is open to San Diego County residents age 60+ with priority given to seniors who receive CalFresh benefits. Interested seniors can register for upcoming workshops at workforce.org/return.