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Does It Pay to Hire Older Workers?

January 6, 2011
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Our company’s 2010 NDT industry salary & benefit survey revealed that the average age of an NDT worker is 45 years; and that this “typical” employee has 19 years of NDT experience. So why is it that so many companies look askance at “older” workers when it comes to hiring?

The lengthy economic slump has taken its toll across the board, affecting workers of all ages and experience levels. So, as business begins to ramp up again and the demand for qualified NDT personnel grows, there are more workers with deeper experience available. They just happen to have gray hair.

Workers over 40 comprise a very large and highly skilled group who can contribute in the workplace for many more years. Unfortunately, few employers are specifically gearing up to attract and hire these individuals. They see a younger, less experienced candidate as a less expensive alternative.

Every employer wants to hire a worker with a strong work ethic, sense of responsibility, knowledge and experience. Someone who can hit the ground running and be productive from day one. Yet these same companies recruit from a younger demographic who are often lacking in the very qualities desired.

Their reasons for avoiding the older worker are based on sketchy information. They believe older workers cost too much, get sick too often, can’t (or won’t) learn new skills, won’t accept change, and will not stay with the company very long. All falsehoods. The truth is an older worker can be a valuable asset to your business.

All it takes is a little due diligence to determine if an older worker is going to perform as expected. Have they kept up their certifications? Are they knowledgeable about new technologies and methods? What is their work experience like? Are they dependable and loyal? It is all there in the work history that older workers carry with them.

While a younger worker may be eager to learn, that also means you will need to be just as eager to teach. However, an experienced worker brings a skill set and practical experience to the job right away.

And they stay longer, too. Statistics show that older workers actually remain on the job nearly twice as long as younger ones. A younger worker has little sense of loyalty and is always on the lookout for their next opportunity.

The higher costs associated with hiring an older worker – hiring salary, health care costs, better benefits – can usually be offset by the employees productivity and length of time on the job. Think of the costs associated with hiring and training a younger worker every six months after the last new hire texts his resignation without notice!

If you are still unsure, test the waters. Bring on an experienced NDT technician on a contract basis to see if their background and skills will be worth hiring them full time. Use a recruitment/placement firm to "try out" prospective employees. The agency does all the background and reference checks. If you are not satisfied, you are not obligated to keep them. The contract option also removes the direct burden of vacation, healthcare, pension and other benefit costs.

There is a wealth of knowledge out there, a vast resource of experienced and capable NDT workers who can bring important skills to your company and positively impact the bottom line.

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