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New Executive Order Aims To Close Resume Gaps For Older Adults’ Looking To Get Back In The Workforce

Gov. Spencer Cox signed an executive order Thursday to create a program aimed at helping older adults re-enter the workforce.
Sonja Hutson / KUER
Gov. Spencer Cox signed an executive order Thursday to create a program aimed at helping older adults re-enter the workforce.

Utah’s governor and lieutenant governor want to help older adults who have been out of work get good, well-paying jobs again. There are currently more than 28,000 Utahns receiving unemployment benefits.

Gov. Spencer Cox signed an executive order Thursday directing state agencies to create a system of “returnships” in state government and encourage private businesses to do the same. According to state officials, the “returnships” are like internships for older adults, and will include salaries that match up with the person’s work experience, mentoring and professional development.

The state’s returnship program is designed for parents, military personnel or their spouses, caregivers, people who left the workforce to pursue more education, and retirees.

“The goal of a returnship program is to help experienced adults reenter the workforce without starting at the bottom of the career ladder,” said Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson. “Skills that are picked up as a person, as a full time parent, or [someone who] has left the workforce for various reasons, don't always easily translate well onto resumes and that's what we're trying to figure out here with this initiative. ”

Officials said one goal is to close the gap of unemployment on people’s resumes to make them more attractive to employers after the returnship.

The executive order also creates a $15 million grant program for older adults to attend short-term education programs at public colleges and universities. Starting in June, 16 educational institutions will offer a program.

While announcing the new initiative Thursday, Cox said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted equity issues in the workforce.

“We’ve talked a lot about the health impacts of this pandemic, but we know for sure that there are economic impacts as well and that these economic impacts have not been distributed proportionally across the state or the country and that women have been hit particularly hard,” Cox said.

Northrop Grumman, an aerospace and defense company with multiple locations in Utah, also announced Thursday they would be bringing their own 12-week returnship program to the state.

“Capturing the ideas and the power of every single person is critical to our collective success,” said Beth Pitts-Madonna, the company’s vice president of human resources. “An inclusive development where diversity flourishes, creativity grows and innovation expands enables us all to create some of the most technically sophisticated products in the world.”

Businesses that would like to start a returnship program can contact the lieutenant governor’s office through the initiative’s website.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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