By JOHN S. GOMPERTS
National service isn’t just for kids anymore.
The bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which President Barack Obama signed, is the most inclusive and comprehensive national service legislation in our history. With this law in place, federal policy will, for the first time, make national service accessible and inviting for millions who have finished their midlife careers.
This quiet revolution starts with a simple reality: People in their 50s, 60s and 70s will need to, and often want to, work longer than their parents did. Half of them, according to a recent national survey, want encore careers that combine income, meaning and work that matters.
The Serve America Act recognizes how tough that midlife career transition is by creating a dazzling policy innovation — something akin to internships for boomers. These “encore fellowships” will provide people 55 and older access to one-year management or leadership positions that will prepare them for jobs in the public and nonprofit sectors.
Encore fellowships provide real recognition that a new stage of life and work follows the midlife career and that people in this stage of life need bridges and pathways to get from one stage to the next. These fellowships will provide examples and inspiration for other institutions that will soon build a thriving marketplace for midlife retooling.
And the Serve America Act provides two big, new incentives for individual over 55 and for organizations that can use their experience to find each other.
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