Older Workers in US – A substantial number are already well positioned to fill job openings in the projected shortage occupations

Although workers age 50 and over experience relatively low levels of unemployment, they are more likely than other age groups to experience high levels of long-term unemployment, stagnant wages, and declining job opportunities. Meanwhile, many employers are experiencing labor shortages and having trouble filling vacancies with qualified, well-trained workers. This contradiction presents an opportunity to ensure that the 50+ workforce develops the skills necessary for in-demand jobs and to encourage employers to fully consider this population when making hiring decisions.

Addressing the re-entry and advancement challenges faced by older workers and preparing them to meet the hiring needs of employers requires a firm understanding of:

  • The current and future employment opportunities available to the 50+ workforce
  • Whether workers 50 and over possess the skills and knowledge required to compete for current and future job opportunities
  • Education and workforce development programs that can help older workers prepare for current and future job opportunities

This report addresses all three areas to recommend ways to position the 50+ workforce to fill vacancies in shortage occupations.


The focus of efforts to address challenges faced by workers over 50 and prepare them to compete for jobs in occupations with the greatest shortage partially depends on the knowledge and skills these workers already have. It also depends, perhaps to a greater extent, on whether older workers are already in these occupations or in occupations that require similar knowledge and skills. By examining the current distribution of the 50+ workforce in shortage occupations, we identify areas where skills and knowledge already align and where, by contrast, education and workforce development opportunities may be necessary.8 This knowledge will allow organizations to devote its finite resources to workforce development and advocacy strategies that are responsive to the needs both of employers and of older workers.

Our analyses show that almost 25% of the 50+ workforce is currently employed in one of the top 10 shortage occupations (see Exhibit 3). An additional 20% are employed in occupations requiring similar knowledge and skills. In other words, a substantial number of older workers are already well positioned to fill job openings in the projected shortage occupations, especially Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners and Motor Vehicle Operators, each of which employs more than 4% of the 50+ workforce. When we look at areas in which people over 50 currently work either in the shortage occupation or in an occupation that requires similar skills, two more occupations join the list of those that include at least 4% of the 50+ workforce: Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing and Health Technologists and Technicians.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Building New Careers: Identifying Shortage Occupations and the Skills 50+ Workers Will Need, 2017-2020


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