By Kerry Hannon
New York Times
When she was just 10 years old, Mary Jackson began her teaching career on the back porch of her family's home in Easley, S.C.
It was there that she set up her chalkboard and led her imaginary classroom. "I would use my yardstick to tap my make-believe students who misbehaved, or didn't get the right answer," Jackson said.
Her passion led her to earn a teaching degree at the University of Virginia in 1977, but her career took a detour when, after graduation, she accepted a position at IBM. The job paid $4,000 more a year than the teaching job she had been offered, so she snapped it up.
After three decades with Big Blue, she retired, and now Jackson, a 59-year-old former IBM project management executive, is finally in the classroom, and not just imagining it. She teaches math and science to fifth-graders at Lockheed Elementary in Marietta, Ga.
Jackson credited her move to a second career as a teacher, in part, to the support of IBM's Transition to Teaching program, begun in 2006. It is one of a growing number of corporate-sponsored programs that help retirees make a smooth transition to their next chapter, whether it is a salaried second career or volunteer project.
The program reimbursed $15,000 of her expenses to become certified as a teacher (or, in her case, recertified), a task she accomplished while still at IBM. The program also allowed her to work with her manager to adapt her classwork to her day-to-day job responsibilities, and even provided networking assistance to help her get a foot in the door for her initial job interview with the school district.
"At IBM, the single largest area where our employees do community service and volunteer work is in education," said Stanley Litow, IBM's vice president for corporate citizenship.
"People feel passionate about it, so we knew it was an area of interest for people ready to move on to a new chapter, but learning to be an effective teacher takes a special transition."
So the company came up with the idea to create a smooth pathway from first career at IBM to second career in teaching math and science.
For many of the growing cadre of retirees, who may have income from retirement plans but who want to stay engaged both mentally and socially, employer programs like IBM's provide resources to make the move to retirement a fruitful one.
It's a bonus for employers, too. "Retirees are great representatives of company values and ambassadors for the brand," said Jennifer Lawson of the nonprofit Points of Light. "Companies are seeing the value of engaging employees throughout their tenure and beyond."
Intel offers a relatively new retiree benefit. Two years ago, the tech company, in conjunction with a nonprofit organization that would later become known as Encore.org, introduced the Encore Fellowships - a program that pays a one-year, $25,000 stipend to help retiring employees transition into post-retirement careers. So far, 200 retiring Intel employees have become Encore Fellows, said Julie Wirt, an Intel human resources executive. "And the momentum for the program is clearly building," she said. "It's not only a retirement benefit for our employees, it's having an impact on communities around the country."
Noel Durrant was an Intel engineer in Austin, Texas. Durrant, 58, retired in December, after 26 years with the company, and he won an Encore Fellowship working with Team4Tech, a tiny organization of technology professionals focused on improving the quality of education around the world in developing countries such as Kenya and Tanzania.
Intel isn't the only company to test this kind of program. There have been Encore Fellows at an increasing number of businesses. Hewlett-Packard, for example, is a founding sponsor of the program, and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group has also participated. Nonprofit groups that have participated include organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Florida's Brevard Zoo and the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.
Pay, however, is not what these kinds of work transitions are all about. Durrant now is paid about a quarter of what he made at Intel, and there are no additional benefits. "I was told there would be a little bit of money, but not a lot," Durrant said. "But it was the work I could do and wanted to do. You know how when you first find a job when you are really young and are excited to go to work every day and it's really cool," he said. "That's what I feel like now."