San Diego Workforce Affected as Boomers Retire
San Diego is only beginning to come to grips with the enormous impact of an aging workforce. That's the conclusion of a summit convened by San Diego's Workforce Partnership at the Convention Center Th
San Diego is only beginning to come to grips with the enormous impact of an aging workforce. That's the conclusion of a summit convened by San Diego's Workforce Partnership at the Convention Center Thursday. KPBS reporter Alison St John has more.
In the next 15 years or so, a quarter of the population in the San Diego region will be over 60 years old. That's according to the County's Aging and Independence Director, Pam Smith.
Smith says the effect of that demographic shift on the workforce will be dramatic -- more dramatic than when woman started to enter the workforce in large numbers.
Smith : You now when women went to work, we did job sharing and we made changes. Well this is a way bigger demographic shift than any of that this is huge.
Are employers ready for this? Some are already taking steps to hang on to their older more experienced workers.
Ky Lewis of Sharp Healthcare says demand for health care will go up in the next decade with an older population, but a crisis in staffing looms. The average age of Sharp's nurses is 46 years old.
Lewis : Quite simply we're not finding enough new people coming into the workforce to replace that cohort.
This is making Sharp think carefully about how to retain its older employees.
Sea World is also working to integrate older employees with younger ones.
Roi Ewell, Vice President of Human Resources at Seaworld, says it’s not easy. Companies have to take care to avoid discriminating against older workers, especially when the recruiter or the interviewer is young. He says it’s not just an attitude that older people are less capable.
Ewell : The mature workforce is intimidating, and that’s the unspoken.
People at the traditional retirement age of 65 have years of experience under their belts and many of them aren't ready to retire. In fact, according to AARP, 70 percent of Americans say they cant afford to retire at that age.
That doesn’t surprise Stephen Conte. Conte was a manager who dismantled pension plans for more than one of the companies he worked for. That leaves the employees to fend for themselves.
Conte most have never been taught how to finance their own retirements.
Conte : We don't do it in the high schools, we don't do it in the colleges, I have an MBA in finance -- nobody taught me about this. I know how to read a balance sheet, but I never knew how to plan for retirement.
Without traditional pensions, or training on how to finance retirement independently Carleen McKay says a generation of workers is at risk.
McKay, who is in her seventies, is a recruitment and retention strategist for large companies, She says employers need to take some responsibility for restructuring jobs so older people can stay in the workforce longer.
McKay : If we don't work, then all of you under 40 are going to get the bill. So if you as the leaders of your companies don't understand the economic implications of letting a whole generation go, you get to pay a very ugly price.
Staying in the workforce longer has an upside. Research suggests people who retire and do nothing see a 23 percent decline in their mental abilities within 16 years.
Keeping older employees in the workforce helps keep both them and the economy healthier.
Alison St John, KPBS News.