By Representative Robin Kelly (IL-2)
When the Great Recession hit eight-plus years ago, the focus was on the double-digit unemployment rates and the devastating impact on recent college and high school graduates. Largely ignored in the discussion were mature workers who were hit equally as hard.
While most people have rebounded, too many mature workers are still struggling to find work, much less a good-paying job. According to a survey by AARP, half of mature workers who experienced unemployment between 2010-2014 were still looking for work five years later.
Ignoring mature worker employment will have long-term effects on American families and our overall economy. During the final years of their careers, mature workers traditionally earn their highest salaries, pay off their mortgages, care for aging parents, put their children through school, take a splurge vacation and save for their retirement.
But if mature workers are not working and earning, they can’t make critical life investments in themselves, their families, and their futures.
It’s clear that Congress has failed mature workers and their families. We need to do more to create jobs and ensure mature workers have the skills needed for today’s job market.
In 2014, 218,000 mature workers indicated to the Bureau of Labor Statistics that they were discouraged by their jobs prospects. Many felt that they lacked the necessary skills or training for available jobs. We need to arm mature workers with better skills so they have the confidence to find a better job and earn a better wage.
Workers are never too old to learn new skills, especially if it means access to a better job.
Earlier this year, I introduced the Today’s American Dream Act (H.R. 1084) to ensure that mature workers can get those new skills and get back to work. This bill contains two key provisions. The first creates and expands computer skill and resume writing job-training programs, exclusively for workers over the age of 55. The second adds greater flexibility to existing programs so they can better target and serve mature workers who have unique skill gaps and needs, often because of family commitments.
Make no mistake: millions of American families and our entire economy depend on getting mature workers the right skills for today’s jobs. We need them back at work, earning good salaries, investing in their retirement, mentoring young workers and driving our economy forward.
During the Great Recession and immediately afterwards, mature workers got a raw deal; it’s time for Congress to give them a Better Deal.
The opinions expressed in “Congressional Corner” reflect the views of the writer and are not necessarily those of TSCL.