Transforming Lives for Disruptive Times

For many years, Goodwill® organizations have been providing programs and opportunities for older workers. In 2016, Goodwills across the country touched 60,000 lives through the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), and they have affected nearly 50,000 lives so far for the 2017 program year, which ends July 2018. SCSEP is a community service job-training program focused on serving older Americans and older job seekers who have low incomes, are unemployed and need training in order to return to the workforce.
What’s great is that participants enrolled through 16 of the 19 Goodwill-operated SCSEP sites can also access digital skills training through the Goodwill Digital Career Accelerator(SM) initiative, maximizing both public and private investments. Goodwill organizations are finding the sweet spot for digital skills obtainment with America’s aging workforce. The intersection of older workers and digital skills is akin to the intersection of hard work and preparation: both equate to opportunity.
Much of today’s narrative revolves around a lack of opportunity for our aging workforce. The dark side of this conversation will be true only if we let it be true. As employers, employees and communities, we must recognize that our aging workforce is as much of a learning workforce as our millennials. Once we realize this, bright spots and opportunities for our older job seekers will open and improve.
In The Art of War, Sun Tzu writes, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” I think in today’s world, in the midst of disruption, there is also opportunity. A recent Bain & Company study speaks to the major disruption taking place in the working world for boomers. The study finds that the workforce surplus seen in the U.S. economy since the 1970s, when boomers entered the workforce, is slowing down. Workforce growth is expected to be just around 0.4 percent a year in the 2020s. This is surprisingly good news for older workers because, as the Bain study says, employers will be eager to hang on to the employees they have and engage applicants, including older ones, to join them.
Throughout this time of disruption and opportunity, we all need to take our game to new levels. If we’re employers, we need to recognize the availability of talent that we have in our older workforce. We need to be agile in aligning our work requirements with the skills and talents of our changing workforce. And we need to be willing to invest in new digital skills development in a way that leverages a hardworking, committed base of experienced talent.
If we are part of the aging, changing workforce, we need to realize that ongoing learning and new digital skill development is a must-do. We need to be flexible to the evolving needs of employers and we need to be open minded to new ways of engaging with work, recognizing that standard employment offers of the past may disappear.
As we all continue to navigate through these rapidly changing times, we can choose a mindset where the glass is half empty, or we can choose the half-full approach. The half-full approach will require all of us — employers, employees, managers, workers, entrepreneurs and gig economy trailblazers — to think differently, to continually learn and to invest in new ways of doing things.