Hiring Baby Boomers As Interns

If you could go back in time and relive your college experience, would you have looked for an internship? I know I would have. They just didn’t seem to be as readily available in the 1970’s as they are now. As a result, most of my crowd spent summers working in retail or serving fast food.

Therefore, given the opportunity now, I know I would make a fantastic intern.  I’ve got all the new-to-the-workplace issues behind me.  In addition, the days of worrying about fitting in are long past.  I’d be engaged, have great attendance and be truly interested in learning.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if intern opportunities existed for the boomer generation?

Additionally, there’s plenty of unemployed and underemployed workers in the 50+ age bracket who would make fantastic interns if they were given the chance.  It’s un-tapped market for employees. And, it’s one that has plenty of talent who are eager to apply their work skills in new ways.

Read  this NY Times article: “In Hard Economy for All Ages, Older Isn’t Better…It’s Brutal”.  Author Catherine Rampell tells us that baby boomers may be the “greatest victims of the recession.”  Why not take advantage of this segment of the labor force and offer them internships?

She says that those in their 50′s and early 60′s lost more earnings power than any other age group. They don’t have access yet to Medicare and Social Security, And their retirement/home values fell just before they needed to “cash out” for retirement. If that isn’t enough, she cites research that shows this group may die sooner because of the combined effects of depleted health/income/security and mental well-being.

What about offering education or retraining to boomers? Comments from  Daniel Hamermesh, economics professor from the University of Texas indicate that this idea doesn’t seem to have much traction.  He says: “It just doesn’t make sense to offer retraining for people 55 and older…the lack of time horizon just doesn’t make it sensible to invest in them.”

Do the majority of employers agree with Hamermesh?  You don’t hear much about internships or training programs for boomers, so they must.

The 55+ age group  may not want to work until age 80, but working another 10-15 years would be ideal. It’s a great way to supplement income, share knowledge and learn new skills. Because, if an employer can train a worker and get even 3 productive years from them, that’s a success for everyone.

We hear all the time that US companies can’t hire enough workers with the right skills to fill all their open jobs.  It’s time to reimagine  existing work place training norms.  How about hiring boomers as interns and training them? Why not have second stage of life interns?  Let’s look at retirement in a whole new way!

Finally, with as long as people expect to be working, there’s certainly time to achieve a positive return on the  training. Seems like we should consider the opportunity costs of leaving all these jobs open and not hiring anyone.  As a result, it makes this boomer pool look like an excellent resource to me.

People want to work. Let’s find them ways.   Rampell’s article leads me to believe there’s plenty of baby boomers who’d welcome an opportunity to start over again as an intern. It beats unemployment. What do you think?

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