Jan 09, 24

How to Address the Skills Shortage with Age 45+ Canadian Businesspeople

How to Tap into Age 45+ Canadian Businesspeople to Address the Skills Shortage

Efficiently Match Them to Businesses’ “Knowledge Gigs”


Canada faces muted economic growth due to our well-documented, critical labour shortage. The shortage is especially acute for skilled and knowledge workers. Seventy-one percent (71%) of Canadian employers report having trouble finding skilled workers. And the shortage will persist, as our aging population generates a high level of retirements, which the Financial Post reported on, “leaving employers in a crunch”.

The solution is staring us in the face, as Scotiabank observed: “workers in their 50s and 60s are overlooked and underutilized” and the “cost of these vacancies is enormous”. The fact is that people are aging much differently than even a generation ago, often living many more years of productive middle age rather than years in ill health tagged on the end of life. “Ageism and age-related bias obstruct the contributions of experienced workers” (Mercer). So instead of our aging population being a “crisis”, as some describe it, it is a massive economic and social opportunity through enabling older Canadians to continue creating value.

Older Canadians are not only knowledgeable and available, they are motivated. Many are wanting or needing to keep working. As Statscan reported, half of people planning to retire would keep working if the hours and stress could be reduced. Many also want a purpose, engagement, and activity.

We therefore have an unprecedented market opportunity through matching business demand to age 45+ supply, a ready, willing, and growing knowledge worker population able to address business needs.

However, there are 2 challenges that need to be overcome.

  • Ageism – “Antiquated thinking about old age hinders Canada’s economic and social development” (Zoomer). There is, in fact, no correlation between age and productivity. So businesses that are first movers in choosing to let go of outdated perceptions about aging and harness this opportunity will derive significant competitive advantage.
  • Inefficient sourcing of age 45+ talent - There are millions of Canadian businesspeople, most not consulting now, with expertise across all functional areas, seniority levels and sectors, but they are very hard-to-find. Until now.


Beyond “Freedom 55” to a Changing Definition of Retirement: Purpose, Activity, Engagement, Income

For most of us, Freedom 55 is an outdated illusion. Even the very concept of retirement in its traditional meaning, as not working, is becoming an “elusive dream” for many Canadians, as Wealthprofessional.ca found. In fact many Canadians who retired during the pandemic are heading back to work, citing inflation and cost of living, leaving behind what turned out to have been a “sabbatical”.

Of course, many aging Canadians choose to work beyond financial reasons, seeking a sense of purpose, engagement with others, mental and physical activity,  and to give back to society.

So the definition of “retirement” is changing with the times.

Thankfully, the “gig economy” is no longer just for young adults.


“Overlooked & Underutilized” No More: Accessible Age 45+ Business Expertise

A new online services marketplace, Elderberry.work, addresses the knowledge worker shortage by matching the business expertise of Canadians age 45+, from any functional area, seniority level, and industry, with the needs of businesses, non-profits, associations, and the public service. Many of those 45+ are not consulting now, but would freelance if it was efficient and they could do it on their terms.

Elderberry.work aggregates age 45+ business expertise, such as finance, HR, marketing, procurement, and IT, to facilitate efficient knowledge transfer so businesses can address their key barriers to growth, through timely and cost-effective “Knowledge Gigs” of short or longer duration. Businesses can use Elderberry.work as another talent acquisition channel to find good candidates for any position or role. As they get to know it, businesses may well specify some of their requirements as gigs for age 45+.


Knowledge Gigs and the Long Tail

Businesses generally know their space and what they want to do fairly well. Sometimes they just need to fill in some knowledge gaps, find a sounding board for their ideas, or cherry pick a few specific details, to take the next step. Sometimes a well-timed discussion with just the right person with just the right expertise can catapult a business to the next level of growth. Knowledge Gigs enable the efficient transfer of knowledge from seasoned businesspeople to businesses.

Ultimately a Knowledge Gig is whatever a business wants it to be, from a one-off few hours to short term contract or ongoing retainer or even part-time or fulltime employment. Knowledge Gigs come in all shapes and sizes, such as: advisory services, benchmarking, process improvements, networking and partnerships, sales and business development, and marketing and communications guidance.

It may be, as Statscan reported, that the search for knowledge workers is more a case of a skills mismatch than a shortage – meaning it is difficult to connect the right knowledge to the specific business context and need. The exact right sort of expertise can often be hard to find, sort of a “long tail” challenge. Elderberry.work overcomes this challenge by massively aggregating expertise and making it accessible nearly on-demand. Our approach is captured in our diagram of what we call “The Knowledge Gig Ecosystem”.



Why 45+? Soft Skills & Other Value Added

Beyond their career’s learning curves and training, age 45+ businesspeople bring enormous value added to their Knowledge Gigs in the behavioral examples they set for younger staff. They have generally learned effective soft skills, such as communication, collaboration, teamwork, and keeping an even keel even when challenges arise. They are self-starters, work well independently, have good judgment and can provide mentoring and are fully capable of mastering technology requirements for jobs (Stanford). Illustrating the need for providing good context, a study found that recent university graduates hired in Canada during the pandemic are struggling because they “lack basic professional skills”.

Importantly, the presence of older workers in multigenerational teams makes them more productive, as numerous recent studies have found.


Artificial Intelligence Won’t Replace Age 45+ Business Knowledge and Wisdom

The 2023 Hollywood writers’ strike issues of concern include the potential for artificial intelligence to take jobs away. However, delving into what AI can and cannot do seems to suggest they needn’t worry. AI is good for scraping the web to create lists and cobble things together, but there will always be a high need for human creativity.

Similarly for businesspeople with lots of experience derived from the learning curves of their careers, going through all kinds of different business contexts and challenges. Far more than analyzing data and information, which AI can do, they create value through their accumulated, nuanced and adaptive knowledge and wisdom applied to creation, innovation, management and leadership, social interaction and empathy, which AI cannot do.


Knowledge Gigs vs. Other Types of Gig Work

As the Globe & Mail recently said, “gig work is here to stay, so we better get on with understanding it and making it work” and “gig work is not one thing”. Much gig work is low skilled and commodity-oriented, such as offered by location-based sharing economy companies like Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Skip the Dishes, and Door Dash. Another segment is online gigs which often involve access to often limited years of business experience sufficient for doing narrow functional tasks, such as digital marketing, graphic design, and internet/web, frequently offered at low fees to businesses from sellers in developing countries, such as through fiverr and Upwork.

Elderberry.work focuses on higher value Knowledge Gigs, where experience provides knowledge and wisdom, rather than more commoditized, early career specific skills based on data and information. Knowledge Gigs provide the sense of purpose and feeling of value that most older people seek. So age 45+ don’t need retraining or be underemployed – they can keep doing what they are good at.

The gig economy may not offer the development, promotion, training, security, and benefits that many workers seek. However, most Canadian businesspeople age 45+ are not seeking those workplace features at this stage of their careers. Many would gladly trade those in for the opportunity to work on their own terms, with the freedom to decide when, where, and how much work they do.


The Business Imperative: Overcoming Ageism to Leverage Older Workers for Competitive Advantage

There persists a “huge gap between the perception of aging and how people are actually aging today”, as Jean Accius stated at the “The Future of Worth: Leveraging the Longevity Dividend conference.  Business leaders need to gain a new perspective on older workers, recognizing the opportunity to enhance their competitive advantage. In fact, as Bain consulting stated, rather than a nice to do, it is a business imperative. Bain predicts that in OECD countries, 150 million jobs will shift to older workers by 2030.  

So it’s time to “retire”  ageism. Most businesses face significant challenges, and by focusing on value creation rather than age, they can accelerate progress on their business plan and even increase their odds of survival.

Consider the significant benefits to start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses by cost-effectively enabling them to overcome key obstacles to growth, such as market insights, sales and marketing, financials, and international expansion. There are many Canadian businesspeople with the relevant experience to address such knowledge gaps, and now they can be found efficiently. Enabling businesses, and those considering starting a business, to access age 45+ expertise will significantly help to improve Canada’s “weak entrepreneurial culture” that the Globe and Mail reported on, where fear of failure is the biggest obstacle.

Small and medium business owners, facing skills shortages, often have to work a many extra hours, putting their  mental health at risk. Age 45+ expertise can address capacity shortages, whether temporary or persistent, as well as provide guidance for owners wanting to sell their business.


Canadian Age 45+ Expertise – Find Gigs

Regardless of your functional area and seniority level, list your expertise for free to be found by businesses. Expertise can also browse gigs posted by businesses and see examples of other expertise listings. We provide an opportunity to market yourself to a large and targeted audience, potential customers, and we securely handle payments.


Canadian Businesses – Find Candidates

Businesses, non-profits, associations, and the public service can use Elderberry.work as an added channel to find all your talent requirements. Post your gig requirements for free to be seen by age 45+ candidates. You can also  browse expertise listings and see other gigs posted by businesses. We provide near on-demand, targeted and cost-efficient “talent integration” – making it fast and seamless.



As a social purpose organization, Elderberry.work puts helping age 45+ businesspeople and businesses and other organizations ahead of profits. Elderberry.work also provides an effective opportunity for age 45+ business expertise from any underserved community to have a presence where businesses can find them. Keep up to date with us by subscribing to our newsletter, or following us on LinkedIn and Facebook.


About Author David Smith

Elderberry.work founder and CEO David Smith has over 20 years of business experience, as an executive with large multinational blue chip companies, and with technology start-ups and small and medium businesses and other organizations. He has started 4 companies, including 2 consulting companies where he did “knowledge gigs” for businesses, governments, associations, and NGOs.