By Peg Lopata, Contributing Writer
REGION – Being unemployed or underemployed is always stressful, but for older workers there’s also the worry that no one will hire them due to their age.
But there’s hope. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), from July 2020 to July 2021, Massachusetts gained about a quarter of a million jobs.
But does that help the 50-plus job seeker? Just their numbers alone may help older workers find work. People aged 85 and older are predicted to almost triple by 2034 says a report from the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) in Boston. Elder workers are becoming an increasingly important part of the labor force, according to the BLS. The BLS projects that by 2029, those 55 and older will make up 25 percent of the total workforce.
Though it’s not possible to predict how many older adults will be working in the decades ahead, it’s likely many will out of necessity, or simply because working gives people purpose. With more older adults working, hopefully more and more employers will not shy away from hiring those 50 and over.
“I believe employers welcome older employees for their work ethic, ability to work in teams and life experience,” said Damian Keiran, a manufacturing technology instructor at Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) in Worcester.
What older adults offer
Age discrimination is against the law no matter what your age. Older workers have something younger workers often don’t have that employers may want to consider: many life experiences, the ability to work well on teams and expertise in problem solving.
“Older workers have been solving problems their whole lives,” remarked Lee Duerden, associate professor of manufacturing technology at QCC.
Added Kara L. Cohen, community outreach and engagement volunteer for AARP Massachusetts, “Older workers’ experiences makes them better able to manage problems and respond to emergencies better than younger workers.”
Simply put, the more you’ve done, the more you can do.
Where’s the work?
Some industries typically pay better. And those types of industries are growing right here in our home state.
“Manufacturing is thriving in Central Massachusetts,” said Kathleen Manning, dean of the Center of Workforce Development and Continuing Education at QCC.
Duerden concurred. “There’s jobs in robotics, electronics, furniture manufacturing and more,” he said.
Many manufacturing companies are facing a shortage of qualified workers and jobs are going unfilled. There’s a critical shortage of skilled technicians in automated manufacturing and development, according to James Heffernan, professor for electronics engineering technology at QCC.
That’s good news if you’re looking for work in manufacturing. But what about other industries?
May I help you?
There’s growth in other industries and sectors too. Overall, according to the EOLWD, the growth in jobs from July 2020 to July 2021 have been in all sectors. Leading sectors were leisure and hospitality, professional, scientific, and business services, and trade, transportation and utilities.
In almost any job, good people skills will help you land a job. But if you know how to work well with people, that’ll help you stand out as a job candidate in these sectors.
Cohen explained, “Older people know how to deal with people and may provide better service to customers―all skills that have been developed over decades.”
“Experienced workers,” agreed Jacob Longacre, professor of electronics engineering technology at QCC, “usually have soft skills critical to employers.”
These so-called soft skills can be very important for such jobs as teaching, health care work, customer service and more. Jobs are abundant within these sectors right now according to Tim Consedine, regional economist for the BLS New England Information Office.
There are also jobs in Massachusetts in the sector called scientific and technical services. According to recent employment statistics by Emsi Burning Glass, a labor market analytics firm, Deloitte, an accounting and professional services company, had the largest number of job postings, followed by jobs in administration for the state. Other employers, such as Panera and health industry companies are also posting a good deal of openings.
So given these numbers, this is a good time―yes, even if you’re fifty or older―to find a job right here in Massachusetts.