LETHBRIDGE: Local mature workers are getting some new help with their job search, thanks to a $350,000 grant from the federal and provincial governments announced Friday. The money will fund a program in Lethbridge that helps older workers find new jobs. Local business experts call it "one puzzle piece" toward accessing an untapped workforce, and safeguarding against a rising tide of worker shortages.
"In terms of our local demographics, Lethbridge has seen a stagnant population in ages nine to 24, but our growth is in the mature population over 50," said the CEO of Economic Development Lethbridge, Cheryl Dick. "We need to have frameworks in place so that employers can have that older employment base to rely on."
This new program for older job seekers is a start. A total of 70 people aged 55 to 64 will cycle through the one to 12 weeks of training that include occupational training, career coaching and planning until participants find jobs.
Jan Heetervrig, a former stay-at-home mom, was one of the first to go through the program. She hadn't worked full-time in 28 years, but said the training gave her the confidence she needed to market her skills and land a "dream job" in eight weeks. "It was the support I got, that was the best part," said Heetervrig. "When you go through a program like this you have the expertise of the facilitators and the support of your group. And that was wonderful."
The grant is offered through a federal-provincial funding pool called the "Targeted Initiative for Older Workers" aimed at helping mature workers across the country upgrade their skills. So far, government has invested $220 million under the initiative.
"It's just the recognition that this is a group of people who are still willing and eager to contribute to the economy and we need them just as much as they need the support," said Lethbridg MP Jim Hillyer. Projections show Alberta is facing a worker shortage of about 77,000 people by 2019.