Nfld. & Labrador

New Board of Trade program aims to keep seniors in the workforce

"We have the fastest aging population in Canada, and we want everyone who wants to work in our province to work."

Experienced Workers hopes to help seniors who want to work re-enter the workplace

Lori Sheppard, right, is the project manager of the Experienced Workers program with the St. John's Board of Trade. The program hopes to help seniors who want to work reenter the workforce. Mike Kehoe, left, is 70, and says he plans to work for as long as he can. (Jonny Hodder/CBC)

A new project launched by the St. John's Board of Trade hopes to help more seniors who want to work get back on the job.

"We have the fastest-aging population in Canada," Rhonda Tulk-Lane, the board's acting CEO, told The St. John's Morning Show. "And we want everyone who wants to work in our province to work."

The Experienced Workers program is still in the research stage, but Tulk-Lane says the time is right to begin the project.

"We're going to have a lot of experienced workers as we move into the future," she said. "We really need to harness their wisdom, their energy, and to mentor the workers that are coming in as well."

Project manager Lori Sheppard says there may be up to 43,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians between 55 and 74 who would go back to work if the situation was right, according to the board's research.

"So what we're doing is looking for ways to make that happen," Sheppard said.

Mike Kehoe, 70, works with an online troubleshooting group that helps human resource groups with things like pay. He said he will continue to work for as long as he can.

"I have a job I love and have a great group of co-workers that I'm with," Kehoe said. "I find it very fulfilling."

Kehoe said seniors can bring their own special skills and experience into the workplace.

"We certainly bring [dependability]," Kehoe said. "We show up, we're on the job, we bring mentoring experience, we bring job experience. For the most part if a person is an older worker, they're motivated."

Kehoe admits there are some barriers for seniors entering the workplace, with one of the biggest being technology.

"If you've been working most of your life, and you're over your 50s … technology has changed a lot," Kehoe said. "The days of Joe and Jane Lunchbucket are fast going. Now we have a digital economy. I work in a digital economy where I communicate with people throughout the United States, Europe and Asia in the run of a day."

"That's different, I never did that before."

'Solutions come from a place of understanding'

When working with businesses to try to get more seniors in the workplace, Tulk-Lane says it's important businesses are educated on key issues for seniors looking to work.

"Flexibility in the workplace is very important for experienced, older workers for a number of reasons," Tulk-Lane said. "An experienced worker may not want to come back into the workforce for 40 hours a week, but 20 might be perfect."

Tulk-Lane said an educational program for employers will begin to roll out once their research and consultation with employers wraps up.

"I hope we are able to identify the people who want to work," added Sheppard. "And that we're able to put them together with great employers who are willing to be adaptable to what they need. I think it's a win win if we put those people together."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show


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