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With worker retirements looming, IT starts to prepare for a workforce exodus

Fred O'Connor | Aug. 22, 2013
With 10,000 U.S. baby boomers turning 65 every day until 2030, the IT industry is among those that must plan how its workforce will be impacted when these employees eventually retire.

Last year the chip maker launched the Intel Encore Career Fellowship, a pilot program that gives near-retirement employees a US$25,000 stipend and allows them to spend one year applying their skills to new positions with social value. The program is part of a greater effort by nonprofit Encore.org that aims to help retirees use their skills in second careers with social purpose.

"We don't have the need yet to say with enormous numbers departing how do we retain some skills, how do we retain some of the institutional knowledge," said Julie Wirt, the company's global retirement design manager. "We're just starting now to sit down and think about how we're going to approach that. In five years we'll be in a different situation."

As employees near retirement they question whether to update their skills or consider other ways to use their IT backgrounds.

"At a certain point they say 'It's probably time for me to reskill again. Do I want to do that or do I want to think about something new as I'm kind of on the brink of retirement,'" said Wirt.

The Encore program paired Ken Wolff, a 23-year Intel employee with Music for Minors, which provides music education programs to elementary school children in the San Francisco Bay area. At the nonprofit, Wolff, who retired from the company in June of last year, works on projects that combine his tech background and love for music. He studied early music at a European conservatory and holds a master's degree in church music.

Wolff's first project took him a year to complete, working five or six half days each week, and involved putting hundreds of music and training documents online, he wrote in an email. He continues to volunteer at Music for Minor and his current project involves shooting training lessons for teachers and posting them online.

"Most of my IT work doesn't directly apply but the basic orientation makes solving software tool challenges a lot easier," wrote Wolff, 60. His background helped when converting sheet music into digital files using high-end scoring software, he wrote. Additionally, shooting and editing video is easier with a technical background and having website development skills helps when posting material online.

Intel is using the fellowship program to understand how to discuss retirement with employees and their needs. Additionally, the program helps people who lack clear retirement plans start thinking about what they may want to do next.

"Many employees [at Intel] want to stay engaged in some manner past normal retirement, but they're looking to do that in a different way," said Writ.

Jose Alvarado planned to work part-time work as an instructor or IT professional after he left Hewlett-Packard where he worked as a senior software engineer, he said in an email.

 

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