Employment and Training:

Most One-Stop Career Centers Are Taking Multiple Actions to Link Employers and Older Workers

GAO-08-548: Published: Apr 21, 2008. Publicly Released: Apr 21, 2008.

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The share of older persons in the U.S. population age 55 and older is projected to increase to 30 percent by 2025 and continue to grow through 2050. At the same time, more older persons are expected to continue working than in the past and, in doing so, may need employment and training services as they make transitions to different jobs and work arrangements. Several factors will contribute to this phenomenon. The number of older Americans and their proportion of the total population are increasing and are expected to continue to increase. Fewer of these older Americans are expected to have the traditional retirements of previous generations and many will continue working for financial or other reasons. At the same time, labor force growth is expected to slow and employers will be faced with a relatively smaller and younger available workforce. As a result, some businesses will need to retain existing older workers or attract additional older workers to meet their workforce needs. The Department of Labor (Labor) has identified one-stop career centers (one-stops) as a means to link older workers with employers through employment and training services. To address the role of one-stops in serving older workers, we examined: (1) Labor's actions to help one-stops link employers and older workers and (2) one-stops' actions to help employers hire and retain older workers.

Labor has proposed action steps that one-stops may take to link employers and older workers and has ongoing efforts to promote employment for older workers to a wider audience. While Labor knows little about the results of these efforts, planned evaluations may provide some information on the impact of Workforce Investment Act(WIA) services on older workers. Based on our survey results, we estimate that most one-stops took multiple actions to link employers and older workers. One-stop officials identified some actions as most effective, such as training staff to assist older workers, and often used multifaceted approaches. Several factors--for example, the local economy and how workers' skills match with employers needs--might affect what actions one-stops take to serve older workers. One factor, the performance measure tracking participants' earnings, may create disincentives for serving older workers who are more likely to work part-time, which provides lower wages. We have previously recommended that Labor assess the potential for such disincentives, and we continue to believe that doing so would be worthwhile.

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