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Closing in on retirement and closed out of a job Featured

7:00pm EDT February 27, 2001

Jim Shelley comes face to face with the reality of unemployment every day. As director of the Men's Resource Center at Lakeland Community College, Shelley works with men who find themselves part of a growing statistic -- maturing professionals looking for a job rather than looking forward to retirement.

Being pushed out of the working circle close to the end of one's career can be the result of downsizing, redesigns, retirement buyouts or economics. Whatever the reason, an estimated 23 million near-retirement workers between the ages of 56 and 64 are involuntarily out of the work force.

In a tight labor market, that's led to a dichotomy of sorts: while many employers are offering early retirement, others are plucking those affected for their own work forces.

The Department of Aging has recognized the trend and is a primary supporter of the Senior Employment Center, with offices in nine Northeast Ohio counties. The nonprofit agency is part of the Senior Workers Action Program headquartered in Akron.

At the Lake County office, employment consultant Holly Traub helps people take their skill sets and transfer them to meet the demands of today's employers. She says she's found that participants often feel hurt and betrayed by the moves of employers, but stresses they shouldn't take those feelings into an interview.

"The most important first step is to ease yourself over the negative issues," she says.

To help do that, she suggests taking a "skills inventory" to get comfortable in understanding what you have to offer.

"Your job security is your current skills," she says, adding that self-directed tutorials available at the center not only improve tech skills but also help rebuild confidence.

The growing trend has received attention and energy from the Washington D.C.-based think tank the National Academy of Social Insurance. Studies are underway to determine what economic factors are the driving root causes, as well as to investigate the social and financial implications on the economy.

All of this has employers wondering which side of the fence they're on -- recruiters or downsizers.

And, although unemployment remains low, Shelley says there's one aspect of the situation that can't be measured -- the degree of job insecurity that people are feeling. How to reach: Men's Resource Center at Lakeland Community College, (440) 975-4747; Senior Employment Center, (440) 350-2557

Deborah Garofalo (dgarofalo@sbnnet.com) is an associate editor at SBN Magazine.