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Retiring workers prized for skill, expertise

When Bernie Frohlick turned 65 this year, the calendar told him it was time to start receiving his pension, but he wasn’t quite ready to hang up his work boots.
Retiree Bernie Frohlick spoke with Suzanne Sardinha, recruitment sales manager with Total Personnel Solutions, about his options for post-retirement work at a recent networking initiative in Sudbury. Prized for their expertise, knowledge and skill, retiring and retired workers are in demand.

When Bernie Frohlick turned 65 this year, the calendar told him it was time to start receiving his pension, but he wasn’t quite ready to hang up his work boots.

Yet after getting his licence as an AZ driver, his lack of experience still left him without a job. Instead, the former underground miner approached Total Personnel Solutions (TPS) about finding work that would make use of his skills.

With some upgrading, Frohlick is now certified in confined space rescue and has worked on contracts for Vale and the City of Greater Sudbury.

Working part time affords him the flexibility to spend time with his family, while still bringing home some extra coin at the end of the week.

“You go to work, sometimes it’s two weeks straight, 12-hour shifts, $20 an hour,” he said. “I’m OK, because I don’t want to work every day.”

Frohlick has joined a new wave of workers who are retired, or approaching retirement, but don’t want to remain idle in their later years.

TPS, a Sudbury-based personnel recruitment agency, hosted a one-day networking event on April 2 designed around that demographic. The firm wants to connect skilled, experienced workers with positions in the areas of safety, trades, mining, AZ and DZ driving, and confined space rescue.

Older workers bring with them invaluable experience, skills and knowledge from their years on the job, said Suzanne Sardinha, TPS’ recruitment sales manager. Employers don’t want to lose that expertise, while workers want to keep their toes in the workforce.

“Here, people are working in the mines, particularly, and if they started working when they were 20, by the time they’re 55, they’re ready to retire years-wise, but certainly not age-wise,” she said.

In mining, most of the newly retired have kept up to date with their certifications to remain compliant and safe, so the upgrading requirements are minimal, Sardinha said. More training may be required for cases in which a worker opts to make a full switch.

Experienced workers also serve as mentors to younger generations. When hiring for a job, TPS typically tries to strike a balance between fledgling workers, who bring a fresh perspective to the task, and older workers, who act as mentors to their upcoming counterparts. Their knowledge of industry safety standards is particularly prized.

“It helps to teach them about work ethic, accountability,” Sardinha said. “Those are important life skills you need to really hone in on, so if you have a great mentor in front of you, you can’t help but succeed, even if you’re just watching.”

Because experienced workers are in demand, they can be choosy about the work they take, Sardinha said; part- or full-time positions, project work, and consulting are all options. Some workers prefer to continue in the same industry, while others want to go in a completely different direction. Sometimes all it takes is a slight tweaking of their current role before a worker finds something new to dive into.

“They’ve been underground for 25 years, they’ve been in the industry, but they don’t want to go underground anymore,” Sardinha said.

Starting in the 1960s, Frohlick worked for eight years under Falconbridge at Levack Mine and two years as a hoistman for FNX before leaving the mining industry for car sales. Decades later, when work as an AZ driver didn’t pan out, he returned to mining for inspiration.

The work may be different, and the industries may vary, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of safety on the job.

“The most work to do this job is to bring the equipment to get set up to be ready to perform the task,” Frohlick said. “Everything has to be ready for the mission to save a life. Hopefully I don’t have to do that.”

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