OP-ED: Pa. helping employers hire and keep 'seasoned' workers

York Dispatch

This past week in Pennsylvania, we celebrated Employ Older Workers Week, a statewide initiative that recognizes the important role that older Pennsylvanians play in our current and future workforce. This initiative also draws attention to the many benefits that older employees bring to a workplace and provides an opportunity to educate the public and employers about the value of recruiting and retaining older workers.

In our travels throughout the commonwealth, we are able to meet with and listen to many business owners and employers. In doing so, we have found that many employers are concerned about their aging workforces — especially as baby boomers begin to retire. Many employers have found that they currently employ older workers or workers who are approaching retirement age, and they recognize the value these employees bring to their businesses.

Values that are embedded in this generation include certain established skill-sets, strong work ethics, seasoned problem-solving skills, maturity, reliability, loyalty and a number of other qualities that are attractive to employers and thus make older workers very difficult to replace.

Despite Pennsylvania's aging workforce, surveys indicate that nearly half of today's retirees report that they have worked or plan to work in retirement, and 72 percent of baby boomer pre-retirees say they want to keep working after they retire.

Older workers express a strong desire to remain active, supplement their savings and contribute to their local economies. Employers are beginning to recognize the benefit of tapping into and otherwise retaining this talent pool and thus leveraging the skills and experience of these valuable employees who want to continue working as they transition into retirement.

Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration recognize the immeasurable benefits that older workers bring to Pennsylvania. We are all working to help employers who are considering hiring and/or retaining older workers. Specifically, the Wolf administration supports the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), which was authorized by the Older Americans Act of 1965 and is a program of the U.S. Department of Labor.

SCSEP is an employment and training program committed to promoting the benefits of employing older workers by providing on-the-job training opportunities for income- eligible older individuals seeking jobs that pay. Local area agencies on aging and local PA CareerLink centers are available to assist employers and older workers access the benefits of the SCSEP.

The number of older adult workers (age 65 and over) is projected to increase by nearly 29 percent between 2010 and 2020, while the working age population (age 20-64) is projected to stagnate. With the help of these programs, and the eagerness of employers to retain older workers, these talented, experienced employees will be ready and capable to continue to take on the challenges of a 21st-century workplace. We feel confident that with employers hiring or retaining older workers, Pennsylvania's businesses and workforce — young and old — will thrive for years to come.

— Teresa Osborne is secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, and Kathy Manderino is secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.