Shades of Gray, Part 3: The Changing Workforce

This article is reprinted with permission from MaineBiz. Derek Rice, author. Third of four parts.

In a state that has for so long relied on its manufacturing industry, layoffs have unfortunately become common. Many workers who thought they would have secure employment for as long as they wanted it are finding themselves in the job-seeking world — expanding the ranks of the older job-seeker. An added challenge is that their skill sets may not mesh with the types of jobs employers are looking to fill.

Dave Tomm, who operates Seasoned Workforce, many of these laid-off workers not only have to be trained in new technologies, but in the basics of a job search. Because many don’t even know where to start, learning those basics often has to come first.

That’s why Tomm focuses a lot of his energies on what he calls Seasoned Worker Forums. These events, normally held in partnership with companies, Maine CareerCenters and other organizations, feature discussions about issues that are relevant to older workers: finding jobs, ageism, technology and others.

Each event also serves as a training program, as attendees learn about networking, recognizing and capitalizing on their talents, using the services available to them and perhaps the most important aspect of a job search: how and where to look.

While Tomm says his forums have been successful in matching companies with potential employees, that isn’t always the case for training programs. Unfortunately, Dacri says, training is usually among the first areas to be cut in an economic downturn. Based on what he’s hearing, that’s also the case for some of the programs aimed at older workers.

“The economy has really thwarted a lot of those kinds of initiatives,” he says.

Depending on how the situation shakes out in the next month or so, the Maine Employers’ Initiative could become a sign of the times. Founded in 2008 by the Maine Development Foundation, the MEI, among other things, works with companies to help provide training and education to older workers within their organization. To date, 270 people are enrolled in the program, which helps pay for the cost of educating them. Participating companies encompass all sizes and industries, which can be seen as a testament to greater recognition of the importance of older workers.

However, the future of the program, which is headed by Patricia Hart, is unclear. MEI’s current funding runs out on Aug. 31. Hart says she is awaiting a response to a grant she has submitted to provide extended funding for the program.

While cutting training programs may seem like a good way to save money, Rick Dacri of human resources consulting firm Dacri & Associates in Kennebunkport warns against doing so without thoroughly considering the consequences.

“A recession creates opportunities to create competitive advantages through training,” he says. “As the economy improves, those who have invested in training will leap ahead of those who hunkered down and just tried to survive.”

So at least for the moment, Dacri says, companies aren’t necessarily focusing on older or younger workers in their recruitment and training efforts.

“Organizations are offering training for everyone, and in recruiting, there’s not a focus on any particular group; they’re looking for people who have the right skills and experience,” he says


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Filed under careers, Economy, Leadership

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