Ten Organizations Win First-Ever Award for Employing Workers Over 50 in Public Interest Jobs

BreakThrough Award Honors Innovative Recruitment and Hiring Strategies in the Nonprofit and Public Sectors Plus, Conference Board Releases New Report: ‘Boomers are Ready for Nonprofits, But are Nonprofits Ready for Them?’
News Release - For Immediate Release -
For more information, contact:
Karina Ioffee, (415) 901-0111

SAN FRANCISCO — Researchers agree that millions of baby boomers will work longer than their parents, but what kind of work will they do? Many say they want work that provides income, impact, and meaning, while improving the quality of life in their communities, but where will they find it?

Civic Ventures, a think tank and program incubator helping society achieve the greatest return on experience, today announced the winners of the first-ever BreakThrough Award, designed to shine a spotlight on the nonprofit and public sector organizations that are providing meaningful public interest jobs for people over 50. The new award, funded by MetLife Foundation, honors 10 nonprofits and public sector agencies (see summaries below) located in large and small communities across the country.

"These organizations are at the forefront of what promises to be a critical transformation of our workforce, economy and ability to meet social needs," said Phyllis Segal, vice president of Civic Ventures. "BreakThrough Award winners are leading the way when it comes to bringing both money and meaning to longer working lives and serving as models for other organizations seeking to tap into this experienced talent pool. These employers recognize that new approaches to recruiting and retaining older employees can help them deliver on their critical missions."

The announcement comes the same day as a report from The Conference Board about labor challenges facing nonprofits. The report finds that while nonprofit growth outpaces other sectors, talent shortages are already affecting critical service areas, including healthcare and social services. As baby boomers continue to retire, the report states, leadership shortages will worsen, threatening the sector's ability to carry out its social purpose mission.

"Action is needed now," said Jill Casner-Lotto, author of The Conference Board report. "Evidence suggests that nonprofits are seriously lagging behind the government and private sectors in efforts to retain skilled potential retirees within their organizations and actively recruit older hires from other sectors."

"Society cannot afford to watch millions of skilled baby boomers disappear from the workforce," said Sibyl Jacobson, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation."Fortunately, we know that many older Americans want to keep working, but they want to do new types of work on different terms with strong social benefit. The BreakThrough Award winners demonstrate new ways to productively connect employer, employees and society."

One of the key qualities that the winners share is flexibility, which includes offering part-time and full-time positions, varied workday schedules, telecommuting, on-site child (and grandchild) care, labor union membership and the ability to shape positions to fit skills and schedules. Employers that accommodated the schedules, commutes and other needs of their workers were more effective at recruiting, hiring, utilizing and retaining employees. As a result, some BreakThrough Award winners report lower turnover rates and less absenteeism for employees over 50 compared with younger counterparts. Other winners report that older workers - because of fuller life experiences - are often better at handling crises and interpersonal issues.

"The very diversity of the BreakThrough Award winners shows that change can spring up anywhere in America, wherever enlightened leaders understand that human potential is nearly endless, but that organizations have to change to tap it," said Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a professor at Harvard Business School and one of the BreakThrough Award judges.

The winners, which include employers and organizations that match those over 50 to employment opportunities, are as follows:

Allied Coordinated Transportation Services, Inc. (Lawrence County, PA)
This innovative program uses drivers over age 50 for door-to-door transportation services for older adults, the sick and disabled, and children whose mothers are in welfare-to-work programs. The drivers bring more experience behind the wheel and consistent support and empathy to clients. In 2006, when ACTS provided 92,000 trips for 1,158 riders, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging named them the "Small Employer Champion of Older Workers."

Leesburg Regional Medical Center and The Villages Regional Hospital (Leesburg, FL)
The Central Florida medical center is a rare example in the health care field, which is suffering dramatic labor shortages. After five years of a recruitment and retention program aimed at those over 50, the center has created a more stable workforce, while cutting costs and medical errors. Nearly half of their employees are over 50 - a good match for their predominantly older patients.

Mature Worker Connection, a program of the Pima Council on Aging (Pima County, AZ)
Launched in 2006, MWC offers free job placement services for people over 50. Of their first 201 placements, one-third were in the nonprofit or public sectors. Employers say they appreciate older workers' experience, reliability and commitment.

Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency of the Bluegrass, Inc. (Lexington, KY)
To provide advocacy and support for those in nursing homes, NHOA has 33 paid ombudsmen - ages 50 to 80-something - to help with just about everything (dealing with family members and lawyers, advocating for better care, running personal errands and spending time with residents). "Ombuddies" work 8 to 35 hours per week and bring common sense, problem-solving skills and the ability to relate to nursing home clients. In 2006, NHOA ombudsmen helped more than 2,000 residents of the region's 60 nursing homes.

Older Workers Leading Success, a program of Cleveland Metroparks (Cleveland, OH)
With one of the highest median ages in the country, Cuyahoga County needed employment opportunities for people over 50. So, with support from the Cleveland Foundation, Cleveland Metroparks, the government agency that operates city parks and recreational facilities, created OWLS to recruit older workers for part-time and seasonal positions inside the agency's offices and outside at hiking trails, the zoo, golf courses and for winter sports. In the past two years, OWLS has added more than 150 employees over 50 to the park's payroll.

Rainbow Intergenerational Child Care Program, a program of the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Centers of Dade County (Miami, FL)
This childcare center operates out of a senior center in Little Havana, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood. The program's success comes from its intergenerational nature and ability to meet three population's needs: children who need quality daycare, working parents, and older adults who need income and meaningful work. The 30 employees are all over 50, state-certified, and, as Cuban refugees, can share traditions from their native land with the preschoolers from that same background. The centers serve 109 children (ages two to five); 200 preschoolers are on the waiting list.

ReServe, Inc. (New York, NY)
In less than two years, ReServe has become a recognized source of skilled employees over 50 for dozens of New York City nonprofits and city agencies. Nearly 200 have been placed in about 60 organizations. Positions range from senior management to engineers to writers and receptionists. ReServists receive a stipend and work an average of 15 hours per week, approximately 46 weeks of the year.

Retiree Work Opportunities Program, The University of California, Berkeley Retirement Center (Berkeley, CA)
To tap into the incredible brain power of retired staff, UC Berkeley created a website in 2002 to connect former staff to current short-term or part-time openings. Retired staff post online profiles that list their skills, work history and preferences, then hiring managers contact retirees - or vice versa - about open jobs. Over 330 retirees and 240 hiring managers are using the Retiree Work Opportunities site, and 80 percent of jobs listed are filled by former UC Berkeley employees.

Troops to Teachers (Washington, D.C.)
The nation's need for teachers is now estimated at 200,000 each year. Troops to Teachers, a small federal program, has helped 10,000 eligible military veterans become public school teachers in high-needs schools. Principals give them high ratings, saying they are effective instructors and classroom managers, they boost student achievement, and they are more likely to stay longer than other new teachers. In addition to the training and support former military personnel receive, the program now allows veterans to line up jobs two to three years before leaving the service.

The YMCA of Greater Rochester (Rochester, NY)
As the average age of its members increased, the YMCA looked to recruit employees to match their changing demographic. They offered alternative work arrangements, including job sharing, part-time positions and flexible schedules. They stepped up recruitment efforts for people over 55 and then provided free training and memberships for all its employees. The Y also added a program to foster inclusiveness and teambuilding between younger and older employees. The older employees have proven to be more reliable and more likely to complete assignments, and the turnover rate for those 50 and older is just 2 percent, compared to 20 percent overall.


About Civic Ventures
Civic Ventures is a think tank and program incubator, working to help society achieve the greatest return on experience. For more information about The BreakThrough Award, visit www.civicventures.org/breakthrough.

About the MetLife Foundation
MetLife Foundation was established in 1976 by MetLife to carry on its longstanding tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. In the area of aging, the Foundation funds programs that promote healthy aging and address issues of care giving, intergenerational activities, mental fitness, and volunteerism.