A 55-year-old intern? Why older apprentices may be the answer to the talent gap
LAS VEGAS — Want to revitalize your workforce? Try hiring a baby boomer as your new intern.
Apprentice programs may not be just for young talents fresh out of college. Employers should study such programs for older workers, said the leader of the world’s largest HR professional society.
“We oftentimes think about apprenticeships for young people, but what about the 55-year-old who needs to work or wants to work an additional 20 years and needs to learn the new coding language?” Johnny Taylor Jr., CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, said Tuesday during a media event at the annual SHRM conference. “So apprenticeship writ large ... it’s a broader idea than just what we all think about young people getting an opportunity.”
The comments come after the DOL’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion on Monday called for a process to establish industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs).
IRAPs will be customizable apprenticeship models that the DOL calls "a new pathway for the expansion of apprenticeships."
In addition, the proposed rule outlined the process to become a standards recognition entity (SRE), which would set standards for training, structure and curriculum for the IRAPs.
DOL would ensure that SREs have the capacity and quality-assurance processes and procedures needed to monitor IRAPs and recognize that IRAPs are high quality. The department's criteria for high-quality IRAPs include: paid work, work-based learning, mentorship, education and instruction, industry-recognized credentials, safety and supervision and adhering to equal employment opportunity obligations.
"The apprenticeship model of earning while learning has worked well in many American industries, and today we open opportunities for apprenticeships to flourish in new sectors of our economy," Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said in a statement.
Taylor has addressed expanding apprenticeships before, noting the association has recently renewed its support by studying ways to make programs more inclusive and broaden them beyond high school or college students, he said.
“I was at a meeting the other day and they referred to restoring the dignity of the first job,” Taylor said. “That’s a real aspirational thing.”
Employers also need to do more to tap hidden pools of skilled labor from the disabled to the formerly incarcerated to bridge the workplace talent gap in the United States, he said.
“How do we do that? For example, instead of a four-year college experience, maybe it’s a six-year average college experience because you go knock out your first two years,” and break up subsequent educational experiences between semesters of work, school or a mix of both combined with work internships.
The former labor employment lawyer also said key themes that SHRM is focused on this year include workplace culture, age discrimination, diversity and reskilling the U.S. workforce for the jobs of the future.
“Everyone is talking about work,” Taylor said. “It’s a great time to be in HR.”
Additional reporting by Nick Otto.