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Aiming for a more age-friendly labour force

By Ashleigh Viveiros

About two dozen business people, community leaders, and older workers from across the region were in Winkler last week to share their views on the role seniors can play in our business community.

On April 16, the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, in partnership with the province's Age Friendly Manitoba Initiative and the local Chamber, held a roundtable luncheon to discuss strategies for the hiring and retaining of mature adults.

"We were very interested in whether we can bring to the surface the opportunities and benefits of hiring retired people and older workers," said Graham Starmer, president of the Manitoba Chambers.

Starmer noted that, as our workforce continues to age, businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to find all the experienced, skilled employees they need.

The answer to the ongoing workforce crisis, many believe, is to tap into the wealth of knowledge of older workers; to keep them in the workforce in one capacity or another well into their golden years, he said.

"Older workers are really not considered as much as perhaps they should be," said Starmer. "But they have skills that they're already trained to use - so why aren't we using them?"

Hence, the roundtables, which have taken place in 29 communities across the province this spring to make businesses more aware of the valuable pool of workers that exists right under their noses, and to root out some of the challenges inhibiting the employment of mature workers in Manitoba, Starmer said.

At the Winkler luncheon, a number of problems were brought to the table from both the businesses and the workers themselves.

Wages was one issue the workers cited when it came to deciding whether to return to the workforce, Starmer said. Many older employees felt it is important that their skills and years of experience be properly compensated, he said.

"They're offered minimum wage, which can be a challenge," he said. "Really, they (the businesses and the workers) need to communicate with one another better when it comes to what skills they have and what they're worth."

Another key set of hurdles identified has to do with taxation, Starmer said, noting some seniors are leery of returning to work, only to bump their overall income level up enough to incur paying income tax in their "retirement" years.

"There's a number of taxation issues that surfaced and that are of great interest to us," he noted.

Other issues that came up included how to effectively advertise potential employment opportunities to older adults and adapting workplaces to meet the needs of aging employees, Starmer said.

On the leading edge

From these and other events across Manitoba, the Manitoba Chambers hopes to raise awareness and gain the information it needs to take steps to make the province more "age friendly", Starmer said.

"We're really trying to move the whole principal forward," he said. "It's an exciting new process ... Manitoba is somewhat at the leading edge."

"There is no other business organization in Canada at the moment working together (with government) to work for the aged," Starmer noted.

You can find out more about the Age Friendly Manitoba Initiative - and, if you qualify, fill out one of three surveys to share your views on the matter - at www.agefriendlymanitoba.ca.



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