Flathead Valley Community Groups Partner to Recruit Retirees into the Workforce

In a collaboration between Job Service Kalispell, My Glacier Village, the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce and FVCC, the Retiree Workforce Group connects seniors and retirees with local resources and employers

By Maggie Dresser
A "now hiring" sign hangs in the window of Wheat Montana in downtown Kalispell on May 13, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

As Montana’s population ages and businesses struggle to find staff, nonprofits and local businesses are working to educate retirees and encourage seniors to re-enter the job market with the Retiree Workforce Event at Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC).

In a collaboration between Job Service Kalispell, My Glacier Village, the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce and FVCC, the Retiree Workforce Group connects seniors and retirees with local resources and employers.

“We try to help retirees feel comfortable getting back into the workforce,” Kalispell Job Service Manager Laura Gardner said. “We answer questions, equip them and encourage them to come to the job fair and talk to some of the employers.”

Gardner said many retirees are eager to rejoin the workforce, but they also express apprehension about working with younger generations or they have low confidence in their technological skills.

At the workforce event, local labor force experts will educate retirees about how to apply for jobs, put a resume together and officials with FVCC will present a variety of workforce training and continuing education courses they offer.

As of July, the unemployment rate in Montana was 2.5% compared to the nationwide rate of 3.8%. Experts at the Montana Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) say the low unemployment rate combined with the workforce shortage indicates that much of the population is not looking for work.

According to the DLI 2023 Labor Day Report, almost 84% of Montanans between ages 25 and 54 are working or are available for work and Montana’s labor force participation rate among younger workers ranks No. 12 nationwide.

Compared to other states, Montana has one of the oldest populations, which means there’s a larger percentage of people who are not participating in the workforce.

Statewide, retirees account for 62% of Montanans who are not participating in the labor force and the greatest share of Montanans over age 55 are working compared to older populations nationwide. Additionally, 25% of people ages 65 to 74 are in the labor force.

“We’re so short on labor and the biggest part of that is because of the baby boomers retiring,” Gardner said.

According to the DLI data, there are nearly three job openings for every unemployed person.

As the Retiree Workforce Group works to reintroduce seniors into the labor market, Gardner said there’s a variety of reasons folks are interested in returning. But she said inflation and the rising cost of living have impacted their decisions and Gardner said people well above age 65 are looking to return to work.

“We have folks that come in here in their 80s that can’t make it financially,” Gardner said.

While many are apprehensive about working, Gardner reassures seniors that they are valuable to the workforce and she and her colleagues connect them to the appropriate employers.

“Retirees bring a lot to the workforce,” Gardner said. “They have a lot of talent and a lot of skills. They are visionaries and they’re oftentimes more reliable and responsible having learned from their mistakes and can deal with all kinds of personalities. I think they feel like they don’t have anything to offer so we’re trying to remind them of their great skills and how much they can contribute.”

At FVCC, Communications Director Michele Purcell said there’s a variety of noncredit trainings, short-term courses and continuing education programs, which offer senior discounts. The college’s Workforce Development Department works with local businesses to fill education gaps for skillsets needed in the local workforce, including occupations like payroll accounting, early childcare education and the HVAC industry.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for any retirees who have decided to take on part-time or full-time work,” Purcell said. “It’s a low stress, low barrier to entry opportunity.”

FVCC is hosting the Retiree Workforce Event in Broussard Library Rooms 214/215 across from the Wachholz Center on Monday, Sept. 18 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

To register, visit www.myglaciervillage.com/events or call My Glacier Village at (406) 250-8784.

The Northwest Montana Job and Opportunity Fair is scheduled for Sept. 26 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Flathead County Fairgrounds Trade Center Building.