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Hanson Willis Discusses DEED’s Role in Developing, Retaining Older Workforce at U of MN Think Tank

5/19/2015 9:00:43 AM

Today DEED Deputy Commissioner Jeremy Hanson Willis joins experts and community leaders from the University of Minnesota and across the state to talk about issues related to aging and the agency’s role in developing and retaining older workers in Minnesota.

More U.S. workers ages 55 and over are employed than ever before. And we know we’re riding the baby boomer retirement wave, ready or not.

There were almost 33 million workers aged 55 years and over in the U.S. in 2013, accounting for just over one-fifth of the total labor force, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Here’s the Minnesota picture: 636,500 workers aged 55 years and over accounted for 21.2 percent of the total labor force.

According to ACS data from 2005, there were 23.7 million workers aged 55 years and over – meaning the U.S. has gained about 9 million workers in that age group in about a decade. Likewise, the number of workers aged 55 years and over increased rapidly in Minnesota, from about 440,000 workers in 2005 to 636,500 in 2013, a gain of almost 200,000 workers in that age group.

About 4.7 percent of Minnesota's jobs are held by people who are already 65 years and over. Another 17.1 percent are held by people aged 55 to 64 years, according to DEED's Quarterly Workforce Indicators data (Q2, 2014).

Where do Minnesota seniors work? The industries with the highest percentages of workers aged 55 years and over include:

  • Transportation & Warehousing (30.7 percent)
  • Educational Services (28.8 percent)
  • Mining (27.9 percent)
  • Utilities (27.4 percent) and
  • Public Administration (27.1 percent).

Accommodation and Food Services (11.3 percent), Construction (17.6 percent), and Administrative Support & Waste Management Services (18.9 percent) are industries with the lowest percentages.

Older workers have many reasons to remain employed. They may need to continue building retirement savings or to keep up with rising healthcare costs. Work helps older workers maintain meaningful connections and sense of purpose.

For those wanting -- or in cases of unexpected job loss – needing an encore career, the average time required to land a job is longer. Mature workers who use multiple job search strategies – networking, job banks, social media – may find the time between jobs greatly reduced.


Employers often connect with job seekers through referrals. This means you increase your prospects of finding openings by knowing what you want and talking to people about it as much as possible. Whenever you’re speaking to friends, family, or acquaintances, ask if they know anyone in a position to hire, or more specifically, any employers who prefer hiring experienced workers. Look for job search support groups to join for more job leads and motivation.

Job banks

The largest job bank in Minnesota -- and one place where seniors search for jobs – is MinnesotaWorks.net. The job bank is fast, free and efficient. You can create an online resume anytime, anyplace, day or night. Of job seekers who use MinnesotaWorks.net, 24 percent are ages 51-80. And the job bank is growing: There was a 31 percent increase in the total number of job openings posted from 2013-14.

Employers that seek out older workers

AARP lists employers recognized for exceptional practices regarding older workers and national employers that abide by age-neutral policies. Securian Financial Group, in St. Paul, has been recognized as an AARP best employer for several years. Its foundation also sponsors a work search information network to help older workers manage their job search.

The Wells Fargo ‘Boomer Connection’ is a model for a development and support group for boomers within the workplace. The group has sponsored forums and provided information to boomers at Wells Fargo about opportunities, benefits, and retirement planning.

Social media

Employers often search for candidates using social media, so it’s helpful to establish or update social networking accounts on Facebook and LinkedIn and let your contacts know what you’re looking for. You can also identify key employers in your area that hire for positions that use your skills, then use social media to reach people who can give you contacts in those organizations. If you are not sure how to use these sites, use their tutorials to register, or visit a Minnesota WorkForce Center.

More resources

Check out these resources for more job search ideas.

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