Feds need to tap aging boomer workforce

Agencies must attract aging baby boomers to federal jobs or retain those they have to avoid shortfalls in staffing and a loss of mission knowledge, said Frank Burns, deputy assistant secretary for program operations at the Health and Human Services Department's Administration on Aging.

“The overall effect is we’re going to come up with huge gaps if we don’t make accommodations for them,” Burns said April 28 at the Knowledge Management conference sponsored by Federal Computer Week's parent company, 1105 Government Information Group. “We need to replace these workers with themselves.”

The population numbers tell the story, he said. By 2030, Americans 55 years old and older will account for 20 percent of the population, growing from 35 million in 2010 to 75 million in 20 years, he said. In 2020, Americans older than 55 will be the largest population group in the workforce.

“This explosion is potentially a very valuable workforce,” Burns said.

Most older Americans want to be productive, he said, adding that more than 60 percent have said they want to work full time, part time, or cycle in and out of employment. Many baby boomers will live longer, but they do not have enough savings and seek the benefits and quality of life from working and interacting with others.

“We will have to accommodate the preferences of boomers,” Burns said, adding that although some might have physical limitations, they also have attributes that make them successful.

The Government Accountability Office has recommended modifying federal systems to attract and retain senior workers through non-traditional recruiting, a mix of benefits and incentives, and flexible work situations.

“From where I sit, I have not seen much in accommodation for the older workforce,” Burns said. However, he added that of the 150 employees at the Administration on Aging, one is 90 years old and manages an office in New York, another is 87, and 58 employees are older than 50.

The agency manages a network of state, tribal and local agencies on aging that also includes more than 29,000 community service providers, Burns said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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