This spring, Barclays plans to expand its apprenticeship program to focus on workers over the age of 50. The global banking giant isn’t alone, and as TIME magazine reports, the job market is “suddenly hot” for older workers.
According to the latest employment data, the jobless rate for Americans over the age of 55 is just 4.1 percent. That’s compared to 5.7 percent for the overall population and 18.8 percent for teenagers. What’s more, TIME reports, age-discrimination charges have dropped in each of the last six years, and long-term unemployment — one especially troublesome result of the great recession — is finally starting to fall.
Why the sudden interest in older workers? Groups like AARP have long claimed that folks 50 and older have experience and knowledge that younger workers haven’t yet developed. What’s more, they’re generally reliable and flexible, and that might be what’s driving efforts by Barclays and others.
Companies courting older workers certainly have a large workforce to draw from. As TIME reports, 40 percent of people over the age of 55 are either employed or seeking work. Twenty years ago, the percentage stood at less than a third.
The news isn’t all good, though, and as TIME points out, long-term employment is still a high 31.5 percent, and those age-discrimination charges, though falling, “remain at peak pre-recession levels.” Also, many re-entry programs sponsored by large companies don’t offer much in the way of pay, and critics allege that they keep older workers from seeking more meaningful employment.
Still, firms like Michelin and Stanley Consultants continue to attract older workers through targeted programs, and MetLife, McKinsey, the Harvard Business School, and others have internship initiatives just for people over 50. (Check out irelaunch.com for a more complete list.)
While older Americans still face many challenges, the data suggests they’re among the many groups taking advantage of the recovering economy and getting back in the game. What impact they’ll have remains to be seen.