“It’s time to shine a light on the value that seniors bring to the workforce”
Stephen Opie, CEO of Age Concern Wellington Region
Dressed for Success Wellington interviewed Age Concern Wellington Region CEO, Stephen Opie, recently and here’s the article they wrote about the challenges facing our older generations and the opportunities to take advantage of a hot job market…
New Zealand – an ageing population
You may be surprised to know that New Zealand has one of the highest rates of an ageing workforce when compared to many countries across Europe. Already one third of New Zealand’s workforce is aged 55+ and over the coming years that figure is set to rise as people live healthier, longer lives and continue to work well into their 70s and 80s.
With the advancement of technology, it’s estimated that by 2036 31% of jobs in New Zealand could be at risk of automation. This brings its own challenges (and opportunities) as many skilled jobs become automated and brand-new roles are created.
As people stay on longer in the workforce or prepare to move back into the job market after taking time away, what things can we do to make sure they are encouraged and best supported through this transition?
I asked Stephen…
What reasons are people working longer or going back to work?
At Age Concern we get over 4,500 calls a year to our community support phone line and many of these are about money. We’re seeing a lot of lonely, isolated seniors living alone in their own homes who are stressed about the cost of housing, so we are seeing that for many, there’s a real financial need as well as the need for connection. For some seniors though, working may not be an option due to health concerns. But there are more and more seniors who can and want to stay in the workforce, or re-enter it after a period of retirement.
How can we promote connection in the workforce?
We’ve found that young people are really keen to volunteer with us because they’re missing connection with the older generation in their lives and our volunteer programme matches volunteers up with seniors who have similar interests.
Seeing friendships develop is fantastic and I think we can see the same thing mirrored in the workplace. This brings great benefits both ways and creates opportunity for intergenerational connectedness, which our workforce needs.
What challenges or barriers can seniors face in a changing job market?
I think there are a number of challenges many seniors face. Most significantly, age discrimination is something many older people currently in the workplace (or trying to re-enter the workplace), have probably experienced.
Some employers may think seniors are not willing to learn new things, or adapt to changing technologies, but from my experience, it’s quite the opposite.
Seniors often want flexibility in their work hours, especially those who may have health concerns, are semi-retired or perhaps they care for someone. This can be perceived as a barrier for employers also.
Many older people are choosing to stay longer in work and are contributing skills to the workforce, boosting the economy, and paying income taxes. If barriers to employment are reduced, older people will have the potential to help address New Zealand’s shortage of skilled labour.
How do we support and advocate for seniors facing these challenges?
Firstly, I would encourage employers to throw out any preconceptions about older workers.
We need to be flexible, provide opportunities, and be open to retraining people. By employing older workers, they will be adding valuable wisdom, experience and creating inter-generational connections in their teams.
It’s important to create an environment where every single person feels empowered and valued in their role.
What advice would you give seniors considering a move back into the workforce?
It’s a hot job market and now is the prime time to get back into the workforce if you’ve had time away! There are more people leaving than entering it so now is a great opportunity to get back in there and show your value.
With so many businesses and organisations experiencing staff shortages, older workers have much to offer employers; many will have deep experience in a single industry, while others have a wide range of experience that has come from a variety of roles.
I think seniors are often looking for meaningful work in an environment that truly values them and where they feel appreciated, and now is a good time to look for that perfect fit.
Finally, what tips would you offer seniors preparing to enter the changing job market?
There are a few things I would recommend to maximise your chances of success:
- Do what you can to upskill – particularly with technology and systems.
It’s inexpensive and accessible to learn software and programmes like Xero, Office 365 or WordPress by watching tutorials on YouTube or through library books. These skills add great value to a CV, show growth mindset and are well sought after by employers. Employers will also take note of the willingness to learn and try new things.
- Put some time and thought into a CV. It’s helpful to get advice or feedback on your CV from a professional before it’s sent out.
- Interview practice is also beneficial and can make a huge difference when it comes to having the edge if there’s strong competition.
- Research the organisation or business you’re applying to; a genuine interest will be noticed by prospective employers.
- And most importantly, be confident and look for employers who value their people.
Feel on top of your game with the support of Dress For Success
If you’re considering going back to work, we have several services available to help you feel confident and ready to take on this new chapter of your life.
Styling and dressing service
It’s important to look and feel your best for a job interview. First impressions count and that’s why we are here. Regardless of whether you’re receiving income support or not, you’re welcome to access our dressing service to spruce up your style – all we ask is a small donation that goes back into our programme.
Careers advice and mentoring
We’ll soon be launching our one-to-one careers advice sessions with professional careers advisors, tailored to your specific needs.
We’ll also be getting our mentoring programme up and running soon, providing careers and life guidance to help support you with the things that matter most in life. Mentors provide tailored advice in monthly sessions which can be in person, by phone or online – so keep your eyes peeled for news and updates.
Women in Work
Next month we’ll be restarting our professional Women in Work group meetings, with the sole focus on work related topics. With an emphasis on digital and technological upskilling, this is one you won’t want to miss.