Explores implementation of the Aging Worker Initiative (AWI) demonstration and outlines major lessons learned as well as policy recommendations.

“This [paper] describes the various approaches that the [USDOL Aging Worker Initiative demonstration-AWI] grantees have taken in supporting their mature workforce—whether incumbent workers or new job seekers—and promoting their value to current and prospective employers. These approaches include expanding the capacity of publicly funded Workforce Investment Boards to serve mature workers, models for training and skill development, and employer engagement strategies. The  [paper] concludes with lessons and policy recommendations that emerge from these on-the-ground experiences” (p.6).

“The [ten] AWI demonstration grants, awarded in September 2009, were ‘ …to address the workforce challenges facing older individuals by developing models for talent development in regional economies that recognize older workers as a valuable labor pool and include employment and training strategies to retain and/or connect older workers to jobs in high growth, high demand industries critical to the regional economy’” (p.5). 

“Despite the challenges for so many job seekers during this period, the AWI grantees…[provided] aggregate data from 9 of the ten sites [that] reflect participation at the two-year point of the project of more than 3,900 mature workers, with training enrollments of more than 1,800 and successful employment of more than 1,190” (p.5).  The sites include Coastal Counties Workforce, Inc. (Maine); Vermont Associates for Training and Development, Inc. (Vermont); Baltimore Count Office of Workforce Development Maturity Works (Maryland); Tecumseh Area Partnership, Inc. (Indiana); South Central Workforce Investment Board (Pennsylvania); Fox Valley Workforce Development Board (Wisconsin); Quad Area Community Action Agency, Inc.; Seattle-King and Snohomish County (Washington); Macomb/St. Clair Workforce Development Board (Michigan); and Goodwill Industries of Houston, Inc. (Texas).

(Abstractor: Author)

Full Publication Title: New Approaches for Supporting the Mature Worker: The Experiences of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Aging Workforce Initiative Grantees” – a publication of a five-part series of papers from Tapping Mature Talent: Policies for a 21st Century Workforce

Major Findings & Recommendations

“Mature workers have age-related anxieties after experiencing job loss. The grantees learned early in the initiative that while job loss is difficult at any age, mature workers may experience profound feelings of despair related to their age at the time of job loss. The public workforce system’s performance measures can make serving mature workers a challenge. The Workforce Investment Act’s common performance measures are in place to guide the service priorities of One-Stop Career Centers, emphasizing job placements that involve full-time work at wages that are as high as, if not higher than, the wages the job seeker earned at a previous job. Early in the AWI initiative, many of the grantees learned that these measures can create disincentives to serve mature workers within the public workforce system” (p.14). “Even the hardest working mature workers often need to develop some basic skills for employability. Some of the AWI sites have reported…that they need to provide training in computer skills, interview skills, and the English language to an extent that they did not anticipate at the beginning of the program. Mature workers may need help understanding how to look for a job in today’s market. Looking for a job is hard work, and in today’s labor market it helps to know how to take advantage of personal and professional networks and how to ‘sell’ yourself to an employer. Education providers do not realize how many of their current students are mature. Many of the AWI sites are dedicating resources to getting the mature workers additional training, and sometimes this training is provided by a community college or other local provider. Mature workers are put at ease by the sight of another older face. Many grantees have older staff, and the grantees believe that the project participants appreciate this. A challenging economy requires more emphasis on employer engagement. Given the state of the economy over the life of this project, many of the AWI sites have struggled with finding placements for mature workers they serve. Multi-site initiatives benefit from cross-site learning opportunities. Throughout the three-year initiative, part of [the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning]’s technical assistance strategy included periodic face-to-face meetings and ‘Learning Institutes’ where the sites could learn from each other and share best (or promising) practices” (pgs. 14-15). (Abstractor: Author)