More older adults looking for jobs, volunteering opportunities

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Economists say the number of adults 55 and older joining the workforce is on the rise. Instead of thinking retirement, they’re thinking employment.

Economist with the Eau Claire Job Center Scott Hodek said baby boomers may have different generational values.

“They’re very work oriented and they like working so that’s part of it too and part of it is to stay connected socially,” said Hodek. “We do see labor force participate rate for that group rising.”

On Tuesday at the Age of Opportunity Job and Volunteer Fair at Oakwood Mall, more than 120 older adults were looking for a new job or volunteer opportunity.

“I've done care work, I've done education, I was a part-time teacher and substitute teacher, right now I'm doing drivers education and I clean a building at night, I keep busy,” said Mark Strack. Long resume aside, he said he wants a change.

“I'd like to work with elderly folks, something education-related would be nice,” said Strack.

The same goes for Bill Doeringsfeld. He owned a pest control business and now holds a steady part-time job. He’d like a fulltime position with benefits.

“I've been a dishwasher, I've been a bus boy, I've been a server, I've done many things. But my goal is to be a manager,” said Doeringsfeld.

Organizers said the Age of Opportunity Job and Volunteer Fair is a chance for adults ages 55 and up to brush of their resume and network.

“Some people have a great deal of experience in a lot of different industries and some people are really starting from scratch so we have resources for both of those purposes,” said Kelly Zugay, training and development coordinator at Citizens Employment and Training.

More than 25 employers were lined across part of Oakwood Mall. Among the first tables people would see is a place for CET to review resumes and give advice.

“Employers are looking for seniors because they have a great deal of experience, they are transitioning from one time in their life to another so they're really ready to branch out and try something new and employers are ready to bring them on,” said Zugay.

Scott Rogers, Governmental Affairs and Workforce director for the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce said this is the 14th year the fair was put on.

“We have a good economy in our area so many employees are looking for people and they recognize that the mature workers with good work ethic are really great people to have on board,” said Rogers. “A lot of our employers in the area recognize the value of senior workers and they have openings for them right now so they're hearing talking to them live to day.”

Employers like RCU say they recognize the value of the skill-set older employees bring.

“They've held numerous jobs that have had different responsibilities and different skills required for the opportunities they have,” said organizational talent advisor for RCU Joe Underwood.

“I think that with the 55 plus candidates they really bring those community ties which are really important to royal credit union because we've been in the community for 50 years now and when we look for team members we look for those team members who are going to be involved with the community and partake in different volunteer opportunities,” said recruiting assistant for RCU Staci Hotujec.

At Megafoods Co-Op, HR generalist Austin Vogler said they’re returning to the brand of being a co-op.

“So this generation has grown up knowing Mega as a co-op,” said Vogler. “We're looking for people that are dependable and this generation is typically more of that group.”

Hodek said the job outlook is looking positive for this age group as well as everyone else.

“Given that they have experience and skills already, it’s a pretty good outlook,” said Hodek. “For any job seeker, the next 10 to 20 years are going to be full of fantastic opportunities.”

Resources for job seekers 55+ include Citizens Employment and Training, Eau Claire Co. Aging & Disability Resource Center and Job Center of Wisconsin.

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