New Humphrey School of Public Affairs report explores the challenges of an aging workforce

Published 7:31 pm Thursday, September 19, 2019

A new report from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs offers recommendations to Minnesota employers, community leaders and local governments on how to address the state’s workforce needs amidst high retirement rates and fewer new workers.

According to a press release, the school’s Courageous Conversations Project conducted public forums in communities across the state over the past two years, exploring the challenges of Minnesota’s aging workforce. The resulting report from the citizens council overseeing the project recommends these steps:

Offering more flexible employment options for older workers (such as part time, job sharing, working from home)

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Providing more job training and retraining

Improving communication with older workers to respond to their priorities more effectively

Refining hiring practices to more effectively recruit older workers;

Identifying jobs that are a good fit for their skills and lifestyles

Acknowledging regional differences in the workforce needs.

The final report and recommendations will be discussed at a public forum at the Humphrey School on Monday, featuring The New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. Friedman has traveled to towns in Minnesota and around the country to explore why some are prospering, while others are losing population and jobs.

Many baby boomers are staying on the job longer and delaying retirement, but may also want to cut back from a full-time work schedule so they can help with family obligations or volunteer in their communities, the release stated.

“It’s time for a shift in the narrative around older adults,” the report says, “particularly related to paid employment and engagement in the workforce.”

The public forums in Austin, Chisholm, Marshall, Minneapolis and Thief River Falls featured business and community leaders in each location, and were moderated by Gary Eichten, a retired MPR News host.   

The series of conversations reinforced the economic diversity of Minnesota’s urban and rural areas, and made clear there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to the challenges of the aging workforce. Businesses and communities must work together to develop flexible strategies attuned to each region’s economy and demographics, the report concludes.

The Courageous Conversations Project is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, with support from the McKnight Foundation.