The aging workforce is better educated too. Since college enrollment began climbing steadily in the 1980s, older workers today are increasingly likely to have a degree.
Older workers are an increasingly valuable asset and already, many employers say they aren’t short of skills but experience.
“As your employees who have been working in manufacturing start to retire, you’re not just losing people – all that knowledge and experience is walking out the door,” Jenny Stupica, HR Manager at SSP Fittings Corp, a U.S. manufacturing company told the Wall Street Journal. People with basic skills and aptitude for math and mechanical learning can be trained to do manufacturing work, she said, but what her company really missed was experience.
Employment rates for people in their 50s and 60s have been rising for two decades and have grown more sharply than for other age groups since the financial crisis.
In the UK, the employment rate for people aged 65 and over has climbed to 10.7% from 7% in 2007. The number of self-employed over-65s in the UK has doubled in the past five years to nearly half a million.
Skills in need
Prolonging working life is one of the most pressing challenges for policymakers around the world. Skills shortages are a problem in many advanced economies and simply training up more young people will not be enough.
Companies are recognizing this. For example, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries recently established a new company specifically for workers of retirement age and above (called “MHI Executive Experts”). It provides veteran employees with opportunities to continue using their extensive knowledge and skills after retirement. Its employees support a range of engineering, procurement and construction projects, and also share knowledge with newer recruits to help develop the next generation of specialists.
The aging workforce was a key topic at the recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Speaking at the event, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Global CFO, Masanori Koguchi, commented, “It is clear people want to maintain active lifestyles after retirement, and to put their skills and experience to good use… I think it’s vital to effectively manage these retirement and skills transfer issues.”