Employment: Archives 2014 & Earlier

Not Déjà Vu All Over Again

A smart person once observed that opportunity resides at the intersection of need and capacity. I thought of this adage recently as I read two seemingly disparate documents: a report prepared by the Next Generation Youth Work Coalition focusing on current work force challenges in the youth development field (“Growing the Next Generation of Youth Professionals: Workforce Opportunities and Challenges”), and a new book by Marc Freedman titled Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life.

Most of us youth work practitioners are well aware of the work force issues in our field, such as the ongoing demand for caring, competent adults who can guide and support young people, and the need for experienced managers and administrators to lead youth development organizations. Two factors make addressing these needs more complex: the part-time nature of many of the available positions and salaries that often are not commensurate with the demands of the jobs.

Freedman’s analysis addresses these challenges. He assesses the major demographic shift that is occurring as the baby boom generation reaches retirement age even as life expectancy in the United States is at an all-time high. Faced with the prospect of 30 or more years outside the work force, many recent retirees are seeking ways to shift gears and perhaps slow down a bit, but definitely not to hibernate or spend three decades on the golf course. In other words, they are a growing source for the work force.

Encore combines fresh factual information with thoughtful policy analysis and illuminating case studies. It outlines a vision for “the biggest transformation of the American work force since the women’s movement.”

The author notes that our vocabulary for describing the opportunity afforded by this phenomenon is inadequate and riddled with oxymorons, such as “retirement jobs” and “young-olds.” He urges us to consider the concept of an “encore career”: a new stage of work in which older adults focus their attention less on making money and more on giving meaning to their lives by applying their skills and experience to work that benefits society.

Eight detailed case studies of encore career pioneers illustrate this idea. Some of these individuals put existing skills to new uses, while others launched entirely new careers, even started new organizations and businesses as social entrepreneurs. Some moved from the private sector to nonprofit work, while others moved within the nonprofit sector. Some went from education to health care or from the military to other public service. What these pioneers shared was a desire for social impact, flexible schedules and, frequently, modest incomes to supplement pensions or savings.

We have begun to see this phenomenon emerge in the field of youth work. Over the past several years, for example, I’ve met nonprofit executives who have chosen to migrate to youth development from other fields: people like Paula Gavin, who became president of the YMCA of New York City after a successful corporate career, and Ron Gurley, who transitioned from school superintendent to CEO of a Boys & Girls Club in Oklahoma.

I once thought their stories were interesting but anomalous. I now understand that colleagues like Paula and Ron were innovators who represented the first wave of a significant social and economic trend. Freedman provides the data and the context for this phenomenon by explaining that, if even a small percentage of the 76 million baby boomers decided to move into youth work, we could probably solve, or at least significantly address, our most pressing work force problems.

The onus is on us to maximize this opportunity. Given the often hidden nature of our youth development work, retiring boomers are unlikely to beat down our doors. We need to take the initiative in recruiting qualified candidates from this largely untapped pool. It makes sense for leaders in the field to educate ourselves about the facts of this demographic shift and take advantage of its possibilities.

A good place to start: rereading Erik Erikson to remind ourselves about the central need for “generativity” in the later stages of human development, and pondering the implications of Freedman’s new paradigm for addressing one of youth work’s most persistent dilemmas.

Comments

Youth Today is the only independent, internationally distributed digital media publication that is read by thousands of professionals in the youth service field.

Youth Today adheres to high-quality journalistic standards, providing readers with professional news coverage dedicated to examining a wide spectrum of complex issues in the youth services industry from legislation to community-based youth work.

EDITORIAL INDEPENDENCE

Our organization retains full authority over editorial content to protect the best journalistic and business interests of our organization. We maintain a firewall between news coverage decisions and sources of all revenue.

DONORS & DONOR TRANSPARENCY

We are committed to transparency in every aspect of funding our organization. Donors may be quoted, mentioned or featured in our stories. Our news judgments are made independently – not based on or influenced by donors. Accepting financial support does not mean we endorse donors or their products, services or opinions…(read more)

Recent Comments

Archives

Categories

Search

Kennesaw State University Mountain Logo & Ceneter for Sustainable Journalism Logo
LOGO Institute for Nonprofit News 3 turquoise boxes stacked in "J" shape

Copyright © 2018 Youth Today and MVP Themes --- Published by Center for Sustainable Journalism,
Kennesaw State University, 1200 Chastain Blvd. Suite 310, Kennesaw GA 30144

To Top