Job fair unites aging, employers

ST. PAUL (AP) — In a tight labor market, employers are turning more to an untapped pool of workers who already have plenty of experience: senior citizens.
Some companies who already have hired older workers like them so much they’re looking for more. And many older people say they want to keep busy and could use extra cash.
Those are the driving forces behind a job fair planned Tuesday at RiverCentre downtown, the first metro-wide job fair to specifically target potential employees 55 and older.
The free all-day Senior Job and Resource Fair will bring together two groups whose paths don’t cross often enough, said event organizer Sheryle Jackson-Hill.
“Seniors aren’t going to job fairs,” said Jackson-Hill of the St. Paul-based Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging. “They don’t think employers are looking for them.”
But calls coming into the offices of the job fair’s co-sponsors, the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging and Senior Linkage Line, tell a different story — at least in the retail, service, health-care and temporary job-placement industries. A growing number of calls are coming from older people eager to work.
“We receive so many calls from senior people asking who is hiring,” Jackson-Hill said. “On the other hand, we get more and more calls from employers wanting to tap into the senior market.”
About 40 Twin Cities employers with jobs paying about $6 an hour and more will recruit workers and give out information. Most offer part-time jobs and flexible work schedules. More than 500 job-seekers are expected.
Sara Welch, regional recruiter for Olsten Staffing Services, is among employers looking for older applicants.
“Quite frankly, our attraction to older workers is that we find them to be just phenomenal workers,” Welch said. “They have great values that show up in their dedication and dependability. They are great role models for some of the younger workers. Any time we can pair up a senior with a younger worker, we like to do that to instill those values.”
Growing interest in cultivating jobs for seniors may be the first hint of a much larger wave that will be necessary as baby boomers head toward their 60s. This is serious business, said LaRhae Knatterud, director of the Minnesota Human Services Department’s Project 2030, who will lead a session at the job fair.
“We have to change it (senior employment) from something we kind of play with at the edges,” Knatterud said. “Across the board, we’re looking at how we can make creative use of older people and make jobs inherently interesting so people aren’t attracted to earlier and earlier retirement.”