By  Arlene Donovan

Workforce Evolution & Untapped Top Talent


The missing link in today’s workplace reflects a significant exclusion of individuals age 45 and older and is present across all industries. This deficiency or some would say exclusion is seen in sectors from universities to hospitals, service providers to practitioners, and faith-based to non-profits. Mature workers are having a difficult time getting hired.

The U.S. Department of Labor has taken all of the data into account in its latest projections of labor force participation and according to these estimates, there will even be slight declines in participation among those aged 25 to 54. The projected labor shortage could limit the growth of the social sector, affecting critical services, including health care, social assistance, education and government.

A labor shortage of this magnitude, leaving as many as 30 to 40 percent of all projected additional jobs vacant, could have a significant impact on our economy and on the quality of life in our communities. The Census Bureau projects that there will be 21.8 million additional adults in America who are 18 or older. If the current overall labor force participation rate holds through for 2018, there would be about 14.4 million additional workers in the economy.

The outcome is different if we look at age-specific labor force participation rates given the aging of the population and the fact that older workers tend to participate at much lower rates in the labor market, the overall labor force participation rate will fall during the next decade if age-specific labor force participation rates do not change.


Less than 1 million (4.4%) of the additional adults will be younger than 55. The remaining 20.9 million will all be at least 55, with more than half (56%) of this number or (12.3 million) aged 65 or older.

There are many causes of the missing link issue, I have deduced that we all are to varying degree however, I would rather focus on proposing future solutions and strategies proven to build a stronger labor force. I think the local, state, regional and federal governments should instead give these funds to companies that are hiring candidates and give each new hire training funds to get the additional training and/or industry certifications.

One proposed solution: Federal dollars given to employers that hire candidates ages 45 plus, retain each new hire for at minimum two years with the goal of five years of employment. Once that is attained these champion employers are publicly recognized and given a bonus sum of money and tax incentives for their contribution to economic growth and workforce development. A true win-win.

Providing opportunities for older adults to work in the kinds of social sector jobs they say they want will increase the likelihood that they will work longer and help close the employment gap. Instead of workers jockeying for jobs by enhancing their skills to gain the approval of employers, this analysis indicates that 2018 employers will need to find ways to enhance their jobs to attract workers to fill them. The good news is that attracting adults 45 and older to social sector jobs matches the interest expressed in these jobs.

In Merrill Lynch’s New Retirement Survey, two-thirds of all adults who plan on working into their retirement would like to change their line of work. Knowing this individuals ages 45 to 75 are more likely interested in new jobs that contribute to improving the quality of life in their communities.

Therefore the question is not simply whether there will be enough jobs for older workers but whether the work will be rewarding enough, both economically and socially, to keep them in the labor force. As we will see, there will not only be jobs available in the social sector that can fulfill older workers’ desire for meaningful work, but potentially there will be so many of them that it will take nearly 60 % of the projected increase in older workers to fill the available jobs. Not only will there be many jobs for encore career seekers to fill, but the nation will absolutely need these workers to step up to take them – to assure continued economic growth and to provide the critical social and government services on which we all depend.

It clear that older adults will need to participate in the work force in numbers considerably larger than they do now or the nation will be unable to fill millions of jobs in 2018 where key steps necessary for developing a comprehensive career pathways system is definitely the responsibility of employers.  This system must include:

  • Steps to engage older workers to remain in the labor force in jobs best suited to their abilities
  • Identify job shadowing/mentoring options for older workers to share their knowledge
  • Created opportunities designed connect with untapped top talent of an experienced workforce
  • Change hiring practices to align with the growing demands of the economy
  • Not be afraid to hire

We have a much larger percentage of our workforce will be over 45 and these workers, if trained and strategically deployed, could, serve and function as the backbone of education, health care, nonprofits, the government and other sectors essential to national and economic well-being.

It is never too late to begin taking steps towards changing current or future options. It requires developing strategic goals that solve the problems of an employer of choice. Begin by being your own champion in todays’ employment landscape.

Arlene Donovan |Founder & CEO | Turning Point Coaching LLC |