When Dorothy Thach decided she really wanted a change and quit the sales position she'd held for 24 years last year, she had another job lined up.
But in short order that position fell through and she found herself in a scary situation -- 55 years old and looking for a job.
"So I was hitting all the job banks, sending out a million resum©s, and getting very few interviews and even when there were interviews I was up against 20-year-olds," Thach said. "It was quite daunting. It was terrifying."
Then someone told her about ThirdQuarter.ca, an online job service for mature Canadians.
Founded in 2010 as a pilot project of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, it was designed to match up mature, experienced workers with employers in the region who needed positions filled. There were about 14 communities in Manitoba who tested the online concept.
It worked so well, last year the federal government's Economic Action Plan 2012 provided $6 million over three years to extend and expand the ThirdQuarter project across the country.
Last week, coinciding with the retirement of Graham Starmer, the longtime president of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce who was the driving force behind the creation of ThirdQuarter, the Winnipeg-based organization named Tim Jones as its first CEO.
Jones was the longtime human resources manager at Canwest Global Communications Corp. who more recently was the executive director of the labour market skills division of the Manitoba Department of Entrepreneurship, Training and Trade.
"ThirdQuarter is addressing a unique issue," Jones said. "It's matching a 45-plus workforce who have a wealth of skills and experience in a variety of areas. On the other hand, it helps businesses deal with the growing problem of skills shortages and succession planning on all those types of things."
Thach has become one of about 1,200 people who got jobs that match their skills through ThirdQuarter.ca.
It so happens her job is with ThirdQuarter as an account manager.
Currently, employers such as Cirque Du Soleil, Sun Life and Investors Group have positions available and there are skilled trades positions, retail management and senior business analysts positions posted.
Jones said one of his primary duties is to create broader market awareness. Now that it has proper funding and management in place, it is also in the process of creating a national board of directors.
"The next step is to get out there and market this nationally," said Jones. "People are working longer because they either want to or need to financially and there are companies out there looking for that worker that brings experience, knowledge and mentorship-type skills into the workplace. Our job is to connect the two."
Using an essential-skills model, ThirdQuarter screens the applicants so the companies that need to fill positions will not be deluged with resum©s but will receive a selection of appropriate candidates -- all over 45.
Susan Eng, the vice-president for advocacy with the Canadian Association for Retired People (CARP), is a big fan of ThirdQuarter.
"It is fulfilling an unmet need," she said. "In the absence of something like ThirdQuarter, there is no other avenue for an older worker to be matched with the kind of job they might want. There's nothing wrong with being a Walmart greeter but for many, that's not what people need."
Thach found out first-hand just how ill-prepared experienced workers are when it comes to the job market.
And regardless of who the competition is, employers may not be aware they have their own prejudices that prevent them from seeing the advantages of hiring an older worker.
"It's hard to say it, but many employers might think about older workers much like they used to think about women -- they're just working for pin money, they have other support systems like their pensions," Eng said. "In fact, we have a new breed of older worker. On the one hand, they're losing their jobs in the 50s and not getting new ones and even those 60- to 65-year-olds don't have enough in their current pension structure to live without working."
There are clearly changing demographics as well as real critical challenges for employers, and ThirdQuarter's success in rounding up employers to agree to participate will be a crucial piece to the overall success of the project.
The fact it is a chamber of commerce-initiated project helped in the original access to employers.
"These are people in their 50s who still need a job," Eng said. "They can't use casual and precarious jobs. They need a regular job for regular people. So the role that ThirdQuarter provides is exceedingly important. It brings employers who want to be there to the table."