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AARP Pitches for Older Workers

Online Campaign Links Potential Employees, Job Openings

By Amy Joyce
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 1, 2005; Page E03

The nation's leading organization for seniors launched an online effort yesterday to help companies recruit and retain workers 50 and older.

Businesses that sign up for the campaign will be featured on the AARP Web site, which will link potential employees to job openings, training and information about member companies.

AARP chief executive Bill Novelli said the advocacy group wants to increase awareness about the need and value of older workers. (Matt Cilley -- AP)

The effort aims to meet both the needs of older workers, who are sometimes passed over in favor of younger employees, and businesses that may face shortages of experienced employees as the baby-boom generation moves into retirement, according to both AARP and the participating businesses.

"Now is the time to directly impact the economic well being of those mature workers seeking employment and begin to influence awareness of the need and value of the older worker," AARP chief executive Bill Novelli said in a statement.

"We have to be innovative to get mature workers," said Robert L. Nardelli, Home Depot's chief executive. "We will be fighting for labor in the next five to six years."

Last year, Home Depot and AARP worked together to recruit older workers for the home-improvement chain. That initiative drew "hundreds of thousands of phone calls" from older workers as well as potential employers, said Barbara Foelber, AARP spokeswoman. "We realized there's a need out there."

The online effort launched yesterday also includes Adecco, AlliedBarton Security Services, Borders Group Inc., Express Personnel Services, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Kelly Services Inc., Manpower Inc., MetLife Inc., Pitney Bowes Inc., Principal Financial Group Inc., Universal Health Services Inc. and Walgreen Co.

Participating businesses will pay a fee, based on their number of employees, to cover the cost of the online service. AARP said it expects other employers will apply to participate: To join, companies must be financially sound and must have demonstrated a commitment to older workers.

Between 2000 and 2040, the number of Americans 65 or older will more than double, to 77 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau. As people are living longer, they are extending their working years.

The hiring of older workers has been a concern for groups involved in senior issues, who say older workers are often passed over in favor of younger employees. Almost 18,000 claims of age discrimination were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2004, with almost 16,000 resolved. There were more than 19,000 age discrimination claims in 2003.

Bonnie Windsor, senior director of human resources for Johns Hopkins Health System and the Johns Hopkins Hospital, said a quarter of the organization's workforce is now 50 or older.

"We know that our workforce and labor is going to be changing over the next couple years, and only getting older," she said. The partnership with AARP gives it access to mature workers, and AARP will help Johns Hopkins reevaluate its policies and benefits for its mature employees, Windsor said.

Increasingly, seniors are deciding to go back to work during the ages formerly reserved for full retirement. For the month of January, 14.5 percent of people 65 and older participated in the workforce. That's up from 12.5 percent in January 2000.

Borders Group is creating new ways to attract and retain those workers. The company plans to start a "passport" program that would allow workers to have a job in two different places. If a senior employee winters in Florida, a job would be held open there as well as near his permanent residence, said Daniel T. Smith, senior vice president.

Placement agencies are especially vying for older workers who may have more flexibility and want to work in temporary assignments.

Carl T. Camden, president and chief operating officer of Kelly Services, said retirees are the fastest-growing part of Kelly's business -- many fill substitute teachers and engineer spots. Adecco plans to double in size in the next several years. Therefore, said chief executive Ray Roe, there will be little talk about a lack of hiring mature workers. Rather, he said, "we need them."

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