SPENDING CUTS, INCOME DECLINES AND AGE DISCRIMINATION DIM JOB PROSPECTS
BY STAS MARGARONIS
Federal spending cuts are worsening job prospects for Americans at a time when people over 50 are facing serious challenges finding work, according to a Southern California employment trainer.
Robert Grimm, vice president for Experience Unlimited (EU) in Lancaster, California says, “Prospective employers have many applicants to chose from and often hire those who are young and energetic, not older and fifty. We must evolve.”
EU was established in 1959 and chapters were set up throughout California by California’s Economic Development Department (EDD) to assist professionals to find work through networking and training. Experience Unlimited was recently featured in the NEW YORK TIMES.
EDD says: “A wide range of professional, technical, and managerial job seekers participate in these voluntary, networking groups to lend one another job hunting assistance and direction. There are no fees for either job seekers or employers.”
The income and employment challenges are highlighted by a Pew Research report, which says that incomes for all classes of Americans are declining and many are losing faith in the future:
“Since 2000, the middle class has shrunk in size, fallen backward in income and wealth, and shed some—but by no means all—of its characteristic faith in the future.
These stark assessments are based on findings from a new nationally representative Pew Research Center survey that includes 1,287 adults who describe themselves as middle class, supplemented by the Center’s analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Federal Reserve Board of Governors.
Fully 85% of self-described middle-class adults say it is more difficult now than it was a decade ago for middle-class people to maintain their standard of living. Of those who feel this way, 62% say “a lot” of the blame lies with Congress, while 54% say the same about banks and financial institutions, 47% about large corporations, 44% about the Bush administration, 39% about foreign competition and 34% about the Obama administration. Just 8% blame the middle class itself a lot.
Their downbeat take on their economic situation comes at the end of a decade in which, for the first time since the end of World War II, mean family incomes declined for Americans in all income tiers. But the middle-income tier—defined in this Pew Research analysis as all adults whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median—is the only one that also shrunk in size, a trend that has continued over the past four decades.”
Grimm lost his job in the defense industry where he worked in research and development. He says, “ the defense industry created research and development that has stimulated private sector products and helped make the United States a world leader.”
For example, he says:
“Way back, our electronics were powered by inefficient vacuum tubes, then new transistors multiplied onto ‘solid state’ silicon chips, which is today the semiconductor. During the 1960s, as the NASA program moved to put a man on the Moon, more computational capability was required from the semiconductor and the mainframe computer. These technologies became the drivers of mini computers, personal computers and more powerful semiconductors. As a result, NASA and other defense programs financed the infrastructure investments in silicon technology that created public private partnerships helping Steve Jobs launch Apple Computer and others to launch the personal computer revolution in Silicon Valley.”
Grimm says there are some newer developments that “we can blame on NASA and government sponsored R&D” such as:
* Solar Panels: “ Developed by NASA for spaceflight, our modern high efficiency panels and production techniques can be attributed to their work.”
*Cell Phones and Internet: “Most of today’s radio and communications were developed for military and NASA.”
In 2012, mandated spending cuts by Congress will make a bad situation worse, Grimm says, because “it is not only reducing federal spending on research and development jobs today but denying the United States the effects of this research and development for the future.”
He says that cutbacks in defense spending do not just reduce the number of next generation fighter aircraft deployed to defend the United States “they also deny the developments we made in electronics and composite materials that went from fighters, to commercial aircraft to the auto industry and to energy saving.”
The result is that Russia, China and India benefit from their investments in research and development leaving the United States further behind.
The effect on the California economy and other states will further reduce the employment of researchers and engineers with a reduction in consumer spending. There will be “Wal-Marts that won’t be built, shoe stores that will never open and auto dealerships that will sell less cars.”
And so, Grimm volunteers at EU to help the unemployed, like himself, find a job-any job.
This challenge is compounded for unemployed people over fifty. It is difficult to defense against discrimination because employers can insist on a particular trait that is “energetic and enthusiastic” which is more likely to fit someone who is thirty rather than someone who is fifty. As a result, EU focuses on practical ways to help people find work that best utilize their skills and age so that “the experience of someone who is fifty can best be marketed to an employer”
To succeed, EU works with unemployed people to:
1) Produce a good resume, “which only gets you on the ‘A’ pile of an employer who doesn’t reject you outright.”
2) Get interviewed “we work with people to market themselves by researching the employer and focusing on key features of a company’s interest in the interview.”
3) Use networking to get hired “you use the internet, social networking to find someone who knows someone past or present at the company to recommend you.” Grimm says this is the toughest part of the process but “the one most likely to … getting a job.”
4) Having a good attitude “is really important because it is your energy and enthusiasm that sell you to an employer and people, especially older people, undermine their chances when they give up or lose the confidence to sell them themselves.”
Looking into the future, does Grimm see any light at the end of the tunnel?
“Well, I hope it isn’t a freight train.”