The A.B.L.E. Imperative
Since 1982, Operation A.B.L.E. has been the only organization in Massachusetts whose sole mission is to get unemployed and underemployed mature workers 45 and older back to meaningful employment.
Today, two profound forces are colliding head-on to create unprecedented uncertainty for this demographic: Their age and the Great Recession. For years they felt free to either retire by age 65 or work well beyond, only to be caught off-guard by a downturn that threw millions of them out of work, depleted their savings, or both.
AARP’s Public Policy Institute (PPI) has reported that job seekers in this age group remain unemployed an average of 53 weeks. That’s one year and 7 days since they last applied their skills, learned new methods, practices, and technologies, and earned a decent income for themselves and their families. Sadly, many have been out much longer and are not even counted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
PPI also states that unemployment among people aged 55 and older has jumped 119.8 percent between December 2007 and February 2012. The long-term unemployed report feeling hopeless, discriminated against, and irrelevant because employers say their job skills and workplace attitudes have gone stale.
Yet, recent reports issued by the McKinsey Global Institute, Manpower, Inc., and the National Federation of Independent Business* show that American employers are reporting a surprising shortage of qualified applicants to fill current and anticipated job openings. In addition, Massachusetts employers are hiring again and looking for applicants with the right skills and qualifications. This is potential good news for mature workers because they often have a wide-range of work and life experiences. All that’s missing is training in the skills employers want.
Operation A.B.L.E’s mission is grounded in the belief that well-trained, confident, and motivated adults are ideal candidates for these positions. Our training, internship, and volunteer opportunities provide encouragement, teach participants to value their experience, and help rebuild confidence in their ability to contribute.
We work closely with employers to ensure that our programs remain workplace-focused and that our graduates are workplace-ready. And we continually advocate on behalf of older workers to influence public policy decisions affecting them.
* Manpower Group, 2011 Talent Shortage Survey Results
The McKinsey Global Institute, March 2012, Help Wanted: The future of work in advanced economies.
Operation A.B.L.E. of Greater Boston Background Information
The Careers component became the Executive Service Corps, which continues to support the management functions of non-profits; and Operation A.B.L.E. was formed to address the employment needs of the mature worker population.
Since 1982, Operation A.B.L.E. of Greater Boston – one of seven independently operated A.B.L.E. organizations throughout the country – has helped more than 30,000 job seekers get back to work through a variety of programs and resources designed to help mature workers make the transition to meaningful employment.
Our Unique Position
Operation A.B.L.E. now stands at the leading edge of a phenomenal demographic shift, one that is likely to influence every aspect of American society: the baby boomer retirement years.
Over the next 23 years or so, nearly 80 million people born in the United States between 1946 and 1964 are expected to reach retirement age. While this historic transition will have profound consequences in areas such as housing, healthcare, travel, and education, it will likely be felt first in the workplace.
With only an estimated 48 million Generation X workers – today’s workers born after 1964 – available to fill the jobs of a departing workforce, employers will be looking for ways to keep their organizations fully staffed, productive, and competitive. For example, according to a December 5, 2008 posting on The New Republic's web site, nearly half of the federal government's 1.8 million civil servants could be leaving the government by 2012. In addition to programs and incentives to encourage their older workers to stay longer on the job, many human resource managers have begun tapping into the growing population of mature workers to fill vacancies.
The U.S. Department of Labor expects mature workers to make up 19.1 percent of the labor market nationally by 2012, up from 14.3 percent in 2002. In Massachusetts, 13.5 percent of the population in 2000 was 65 and older; a figure that the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth predicts will jump to 18 percent by 2025. (Florida is now the only state with 18 percent of the population age 65 and older)
Mature job seekers come from a broad range of social and economic backgrounds. Many have:
- Already retired and are having difficulty living on limited social security, life savings, and pension (if any) income;
- Been laid off due to downsizing and are unable to find work in their particular professional or occupational specialties;
- Lost their jobs because of age discrimination.
These individuals comprise a burgeoning pool of available talent that is, according to the Society of Human Resources Management, flexible about working different schedules and more loyal than younger workers who frequently change jobs to advance their careers.
Yet, in many cases mature individuals face formidable barriers to re-entry into the workforce. They need to learn new skills and practices that make them attractive candidates for the employment possibilities open to them. For nearly 30 years, Operation A.B.L.E. has been committed to helping mature workers from diverse backgrounds lower these barriers through training programs that increase their skills, confidence, and employability.
Today, as the country slowly recovers from an economic recession of historic proportions, our work is more important than ever. Mature workers who have lost their jobs will need to update their skills in order to re-enter the workforce in a meaningful and opportune way. Operation A.B.L.E. of Greater Boston is committed to helping these individuals master the skills required; and provide services, and advocacy they need to maintain workforce participation over time.
A.B.L.E. Training Programs
Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) – SCSEP is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and designed specifically to address the needs of low-income and unemployed seniors over the age of 55. The program provides job training and placement support to more than 100,000 participants nationwide each year through organizations like Operation A.B.L.E. SCSEP participants commit to working 20 hours per week in a non-profit or government agency, earning $8.00 per hour while they learn. This “paid internship” experience enables trainee workers to update their skills, develop new capabilities, and gain greater self-confidence. After a period of paid training, the SCSEP program assists in the transition to unsubsidized employment.
Skills2Work -- is an 18-week computer and administrative/office skills training program that includes in-depth instruction in the MS Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, 2003 & 2010 and Outlook 2010), QuickBooks, and Medical Terminology, as well as a 6-week internship with a local employer.
W.E.A.T. -- short for Weatherization & Energy Audit Training – consists of 14 weeks (350 hours) of classroom and field-based program offering in-depth instruction in green building concepts, energy auditing, thermal imaging, renewable energies, green roof technologies, principles of weatherization, and green terminology. Students have the option of an Energy Auditor track or a Green Office Administration track, and It includes 80 hours of externship at a partner employer worksite.
A job-listing area with current job opportunities is available to any job seeker age 45 or older. Fee-based coaching and counseling are available for $65 per hour to job seekers, as well as Job Clubs and support groups that meet weekly. Candidates can determine their skill levels on the Microsoft Office Suite by taking online tests in various software applications with the QWIZ® testing software. Workstations are available for job seekers to revise resumes, search the Internet, and apply for jobs.
Opportunities For The Economically Disadvantaged
In addition to the paid positions available through SCSEP, Operation A.B.L.E. provides opportunities for economically disadvantaged mature workers by raising funds for qualified students attending the Operation EmployABLE and Operation Service! training classes.
Special Mature Worker Events
Operation A.B.L.E. runs special events each year to help facilitate the match between employers and mature job seekers, including:
- Mature Worker Job Fairs – Traditional job fairs held twice each year and dedicated solely to the employment needs of workers age 45 and older.
- Celebrating Experience Breakfast – Companies are invited to nominate outstanding mature workers and honor them at a special awards breakfast.
- Annual Starfish Thrower Award Gala – Operation A.B.L.E.'s annual dinner honors participating employers and presents awards to three outstanding mature workers who graduated from ABLE’s training programs and successfully transitioned back to work.