National Center for Appropriate Technology

Rose Sullivan, 89, left, helps Holly Hill, 28, find reference materials at the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s library.

When the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) needs a position filled, it often calls on people who already know the job: former employees. Those who leave the organization are placed on adjunct status, meaning they can return when they want – assuming a job is available – without having to repeat the hiring process, including the paperwork and training.

NCAT has a clear mission: to help people use environmentally sound methods – or “appropriate technologies” – to grow crops, raise animals and use less energy. With locations in Montana, California, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Louisiana, it has traditionally maintained an age-diverse work force.

The adjunct option is one reason why. Typically, the organization brings back former, often retired, employees for short-term assignments, though some workers return to fill permanent positions.

“We develop and invest in our staff,” says Marcia Brown, NCAT’s chief operating officer. “For us to lose somebody because they suddenly want to retire is a hard thing.”

Bringing employees back as adjuncts keeps that talent in the fold. Rose Sullivan, 89, has twice returned as an adjunct. She spent her early working years as a teacher but left work to start a family that eventually included seven children. When she was looking to return to work, she learned about NCAT.

Sullivan got a job there in 1978 as the librarian’s assistant but was laid off for economic reasons in 1981. A few months later, she got a call to return and manage the library. She retired in 1992 at age 72. And in 1997, she got called again.

“I flunked retirement,” jokes Sullivan, who is still at NCAT as a part-time library director.

NCAT also recruits boomers and older adults who haven’t worked for the organization before. One way is by utilizing trainees from Experience Works – an organization that trains low-income individuals 55 and older for jobs that serve their communities. Former Experience Works members, now NCAT staff, handle calls on an NCAT hotline that helps low-income consumers find assistance paying their energy bills.

The organization has also recruited experienced, 50-plus energy specialists laid off from the local utility to help implement an NCAT program that works to reduce energy use in commercial, industrial and government buildings. Over time, the utility veterans have become mentors to the younger workers.

NCAT ’s recruitment and hiring practices overall have sparked those kinds of relationships, as the organization has placed employees of all ages in various roles throughout the organization.

“NCAT’s openness to mentoring within the staff and its demonstrated commitment to collaboration for many, many years has created a climate of openness and support,” observes Jonda Crosby, executive director of the Alternative Energy Resources Organization, a Montana-based nonprofit that has collaborated with NCAT on different projects.

Crosby adds: “Staff and others have the incentive and inclination to support one another, work together, and get more work done – and done better.”

For more information, contact Marcia Brown,, or visit: