Johanne is 60 years old. For two years she has been trying to rejoin the workforce but has found it difficult to find a job, despite the current labor shortage in Québec.
Johanne is hoping to find work as a secretary. After spending the last 15 years as a homemaker, however, she has lost touch with most of her professional contacts and no longer feels comfortable in an office setting.
In spite of these challenges, Johanne has updated her CV and has applied for several jobs. So far, she hasn’t had any luck, but she’s working hard on herself to rediscover her strengths and skills. She’s also practicing how to present her value to an employer to improve her chances of finding a job she’ll be happy with.
Training to return to the workforce or to stay employed
Johanne went back to school to obtain a DEP in secretarial studies from Compétences 2000. This training helped her to master MS Office suite, a major accomplishment considering she had never worked with a computer before. Previously, she had been a typist with an insurance company.
Irène Demczuk, project coordinator for Générations au travail, réussir ensemble!, told Jobboom that people aged 50 years and older have to meet the needs of today’s job market. This means staying open to taking new training courses to acquire new qualifications or to update their existing competencies. On the other hand, Demczuk said that employers and companies also need to invest in their employees and to offer training opportunities, no matter an employee’s age. The government must also provide people over 50 with access to training programs offered by Emploi-Québec.
The importance of a good working environment
Johanne also had worries about rejoining the workforce. In particular, she was worried about working closely with young people, who she feared would label her as the “old lady.” She hoped to find work in a welcoming environment where she could get down to work as a new employee without feeling isolated or discriminated against because of her age.
Her training program in secretarial studies allowed her to work with young people on a daily basis, and her fears of being stigmatized disappeared: all her colleagues, young and old, were kind and welcoming to her.
Demczuk said that employers need to take all employees’ concerns into account and to work with them to develop a healthy working environment without discrimination toward older or younger people. She also noted that putting processes in place to stimulate creativity and productivity between employees is important, and that human resources counselors need to be vigilant to address any issues of discrimination towards older employees.
Working part time: an alternative
Ideally, Johanne would like to work 20 hours per week. She hopes to be able to have free time while also being able to work. Knowing this, it’s clear the ideal for Johanne would be to take a part-time position! Johanne explained to me that staying at home at watching TV has made her feel like she’s not contributing to society. However, working 35 or 40 hours per week would simply take up too much of her time. She’s staying realistic and not discarding the idea of working full-time.
A labor shortage signals a good time to adapt
The current labor shortage can be partly explained by Québec’s aging population. The average age of Québecers has risen by 10 years in the past 30 years, while the number of young people in the province has also fallen.
Johanne is confident in her qualities as an employee; she’s loyal and experienced. She’s decided to wait until the market can offer her a flexible position with a fair salary, and also for the government to unveil training programs accessible to seniors, many of whom are on a fixed income. She hopes the government can see the value in keeping her and other older workers in the workforce as long as possible.
Demczuk points out that recruiting a salaried employee costs the employer, on average, $35,000. She believes that keeping people aged 50 to 65 working could do a lot to address the current labor shortage in the province.