Older Workers Face Dilemma

I recently struck a nerve in a column I wrote called, “New Ideas Creating a More Productive Work Environment.” I began the column with this paragraph.

“I recently heard a statistic that in the year 2006; the U.S. will have a shortage of 10 million workers. Wake up and smell the coffee, here is my blunt opinion. If you don’t provide a productive and positive workplace, you may face going out of business simply because talented workers today have their choice of employers. You may get stuck with all the unqualified and undesirable workers who can’t find work anywhere else. ”

A concerned reader named Philip L. Brodowski, e-mailed me his side of the story.

Personally, I believe this statistic is correct – if anything, it may well be understated. All anyone has to do is look at the overwhelming number of job recruiter websites to see thousands of positions that are available and this doesn’t include positions that are never advertised over the Internet. Many of these positions are open for months at a time – some never get filled and are retracted, which brings me to the point of this message:

Notwithstanding the fact that thousands of jobs across this country go begging, recruiters and employers seem absolutely opposed to hiring qualified individuals once they reach a certain age (mid-40’s, early 50’s?). Many companies have downsized leaving experienced, qualified and motivated people without jobs. Personally, I have been in the job market for about 4 months now. I have posted my resume on numerous recruiter websites and every day check open positions on about 15 regularly used websites. My resume has been accessed approximately 200 times by recruiters/employers and I have actively applied for 40 positions, some more than once. Having held senior management positions, I am looking for the same level but not necessarily in the same industry.

In most cases, the recruiter/employer does not even have the common courtesy to acknowledge receipt of a cover letter and resume – I have received many resumes and interviewed many people over the course of my career and even though I was always extremely busy, a response was always sent to the applicant. Many of the positions I have applied for closely mirror departments I have managed very successfully; yet I have received canned responses stating I do not have the qualifications to be considered. The purpose of this message is not to complain about my personal situation, rather, it is to point out that American business is deliberately overlooking a vast pool of people that have many productive years ahead of them. As an example, I am currently 52 and plan to work until age 62 or 65. That leaves 10 to 13 years that can benefit a company. We all know retirement age is being advanced to 70 years because life spans are longer. If American business has a shortage of people now and in the future, it should look inward and accept responsibility for its deliberate exclusion of a large, productive group of people who want to work.

It is apparent from this person, as well as others who have contacted me, that we are ignoring a major segment of the labor pool. Every business I know is yelling for help, so I am not sure what the problem is? Are Human Resource people afraid to hire older people because they feel like they have to pay them more? Are older workers unable/unwilling to take lower paying jobs? I don’t know about you, but I know most age 40 plus workers have a better work ethic than many younger people. So what is the problem? I would like to hear what you think. Please feel free to e-mail me your comments.