Experience can help Vermont grow

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Much has been said about the graying of Vermont and its continuing loss of working-age adults. The state can't sustain its current budget practices and progressive priorities, we are told, without growing the tax base — and that means employers and, more crucially, employees.

A lot of the focus has been on getting younger adults to move here, or move back here after graduation. There's nothing wrong with that.

But the recent headlines about age discrimination in the job market — specifically, employers using social media to target specific age groups with help wanted ads and exclude other age groups — have us thinking about how older workers can help Vermont, too.

In a joint investigation, ProPublica and The New York Times learned that Verizon, Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Target and Facebook placed ads that were limited to particular age groups.

It's hard enough to find a job in your 40s or 50s; it's even harder when would-be employers won't even tell you they're hiring, let alone illegally exclude you because of your age.

ProPublica reported its attempts to purchase job ads on Google and LinkedIn excluding audiences older than 40 were "instantly approved."

This is supposed to be against the law. Under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, bias against people 40 or older in hiring or employment is prohibited.

And here's where Vermont comes in. Because Vermont needs people, first and foremost.

Why not offer incentives for Vermont employers who reach out to older, experienced mid-career professionals — many of them from high-tech fields — and bring them to the Green Mountain State?

As older adults, they know what they want out of life and the kind of place where they want to live. They don't need to be cajoled into choosing Vermont; either they'll want what we have to offer or they'll look elsewhere.

There are things other states can offer that we cannot. Yes, it gets cold. No, it's not the cheapest place to live. What we can offer, though, is substantial — a state full of unspoiled natural beauty, four seasons of outdoor adventure, a spirit of community and a commitment to citizen government, among other positives. Those are things money can't buy.

And don't forget, adults in their 40s and 50s are likely to have children who could help us fill our classrooms. Certainly the state can do a better job retaining young adults after they graduate from college, but getting them here is half the battle.

It's simple Yankee ingenuity, really. The job market has, for foolish and short-sighted reasons, discarded thousands of men and women who still have experience, brain power and work ethic to burn. Why wouldn't we find a use for experienced professionals who still have a lot to give and can mentor the next generation? And why shouldn't Vermont Yankees, long experts in "waste not, want not," take full advantage of others' carelessness for our mutual benefit?

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