Hiring Grandma: Altering workforce assumptions to consider different solutions.

Author:Dochstader, Jennifer
Position:HR Matters

These days you can't attend an association meeting or industry event that doesn't have some kind of presentation, workshop or breakout session associated with workforce development. Ask any owner or senior executive at a label manufacturer, flexible packaging company or carton operation and they'll all concur: Our industry has an aging problem.

In a market where the unemployment rate hovers around 3% and bright-eyed Millennials flock to industries like technology, healthcare and finance, the printing industry, like other manufacturing sectors, is facing a shortage of young talent, both on and off the production floor. According to Gary Walton, Professor Emeritus at Cincinnati State, the school used to have 150 students in its prestigious print program. This year they have nine. This story echoes what is happening across the country; the kids are alright, they just don't want to become press operators.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal made me wonder if we're approaching this the wrong way. In the past year, I've spoken with printing company owners who, in an effort to appeal to younger generations, have installed gaming consoles, ping pong and foosball tables in their employee lounges and break rooms. One even has a putting green. Inside the building. But what if we're knocking ourselves out trying to appeal to twenty-somethings when we might be able to find some of what we're looking for with fifty-somethings? I know what you might be thinking, "Seriously?!? I'd train people and within a decade they'd retire and their healthcare costs could he nearly double what I would pay for younger recruits." Bear with me here.

According to the Wall Street Journal article, nearly 8 million Americans over the age of 55 are either unemployed or stuck in low-quality jobs ("low-quality" defined as part-time work at minimum wage and/or part-time work that offers zero benefits). The article follows a group of currently unemployed people, aged 58 and older, as they navigate the world of online job recruitment sites, human resource departments and job fairs. This featured group of "older" Americans has both worthwhile experience and education. They're smart, conscientious and resourceful. The group consists of people with decades of administrative front-office experience, as well as technical laborers who have worked in machine shops. I know what you might be thinking again. "If they're such good candidates, why aren't they employed?" Because they've...

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