Local employers roll out red carpet for mature workers

By Becky Hurley

Ready to return to the workplace or thinking about retraining fora new field? Maybe you were laid off, left a job to take care of a family member or retired early. No problem. You’ll find today’s job market welcomes your return.

Tech companies like IBM, Apple and PayPal, for example, now support return-to-work programs or “returnships” through Path Forward. The nonprofit organization focuses on helping people who miss getting a paycheck or a stimulating workplace environment restart their careers. Returnship training benefits anyone – including older Americans — who have taken a career break for personal, family or health reasons.

Here in El Paso and Teller counties, hiring programs may not be called “returnships,” but local employers are equally interested in helping qualified applicants connect with jobs, regardless of age.

“We call it ‘looking for good people,’” says Chuck Murphy, owner of Gray Line of Colorado, a Colorado Tour Line company. “Give me somebody 55-plus who is honest, hardworking and passes the driving and drug tests any day. They’re our best asset.”

To help, Gray Line offers a generous health insurance program along and helps prospects prepare for Colorado’s state commercial driving license (CDL) exam.

“We’re always interested in good men and women. Maybe they when they were younger and raising a family they drove a school bus – or served in the military,” he adds. “And some folks don’t need the money or insurance – they just tired of sitting at home.”

Of course situations vary. A candidate may have taken early retirement, gotten laid off, or just wants to check out what’s available. Fortunately the Pikes Peak Workforce Center is a terrific resource, says Executive Director and CEO Traci Marques. With 12,000-plus open full- and part-time positions and an unemployment rate near 3.5 percent, qualified workers of all ages are in high demand.

“There is plenty of opportunity out there,” she says, adding that prior work experience is highly valued. “Some weeks we run five to eight employer hiring events a week. And all our programs are free to participants.”

But what if your computer skills need a refresh? Or maybe you don’t have an updated resume. And how do you find open positions?  One option is to sign up for any of a dozen workshops. Examples include: Branding and Networking Your Way to Your Next Job; From Job Loss to Job Search, or Basic Computer Skills, Part 1 & 2.

Industries where demand is the highest include IT, sports/leisure and hospitality, healthcare and manufacturing, she explains. Employers like USAA, Progressive Insurance or T. Rowe Price – or even manufacturers and construction firms offer on- the-job training – from customer service to specific trade skills. In addition, Baby Boomers and Gen X job seekers find their traditional work ethic, accountability and “soft skills” are powerful selling points. Sixty-seven percent of Human Resources directors surveyed report that even when a manufacturing, technology or administrative job requires “hard skills,” soft skills are just as important.

“Strong people skills are vital for team building and customer relations,” Marques says.

Colorado Springs’ Visiting Angels Senior Care owner Steve Swim has hired full- and part-time employees through the Pikes Peak Workforce Center. Many are in their 50s and 60s, he explains, noting that he definitely values “soft skills.”

“We’re looking for people who have had personal life experience helping a family member, friend or neighbor,” he says. “Many CNAs and personal care providers may have worked before as family caregivers or in hospitals and hospice. Someone who’s mature can relate better with seniors. They’re more dependable and reliable.”

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