Labor Department Awards $10 Million to Retrain Older Workers

August 4, 2009
August 03, 2009 05:12 PM ET | | Emily Brandon | link

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded $10 million to organizations that connect older workers to jobs last week. The money is designated to retrain workers age 55 and older for jobs in high-growth industries such as healthcare and green jobs. The 10 grants worth approximately $1 million each were given to organizations in Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. The Atlantic Philanthropies will also invest another $3.6 million in this effort.

The grants will target older workers who have been laid off and are seeking reemployment, who need to stay in the work force beyond the traditional retirement age, or workers who face barriers to finding a new job such as a disability or a low level of English proficiency. The Baltimore County Office of Workforce Development, one of the grantees, plans to use its $967,005 award to move lower skilled older workers into the health care industry and to retain experienced technical and professional workers after retirement age. The Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County in Washington will invest $1,000,000 retraining older workers with disabilities, limited English proficiency, and ex-offenders for jobs in health care, information technology, and green sector jobs.

“Older Americans are an important part of the workforce, and their skills and experience are of tremendous value to our nation,” says Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. “With expanded education and training opportunities, such as those made possible through this grant, older workers can broaden their own career opportunities and further contribute to the growth of industries across the United States.”

The unemployment rate for people age 55 and over was 7 percent in June, which is below the 9.5 percent unemployment rate for the labor force as a whole. But unemployed older workers often have a tougher time finding new jobs than their younger counterparts. The average duration of unemployment for workers age 55 and older in June was 29.9 weeks, while younger workers were typically out of work for 21.4 weeks. About 38 percent of the older workers had been job hunting for 27 weeks or more in June.


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