the-new-york-times logoWHEN 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,” Ms. 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 Ms. 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.

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 class work 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 S. 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 number 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, vice president for corporate strategy at the nonprofit group Points of Light. The organization presents an annual Corporate Engagement Award of Excellence to companies that provide volunteer programs. “Companies are seeing the value of engaging employees throughout their tenure and beyond.”

At the auditing giant PricewaterhouseCoopers, for example, retired partners are encouraged to apply for Project Belize, a program that sends 400 people — from interns and employees to active and retired partners — to Belize City during a two-week period to teach financial literacy and entrepreneurship to young students, according to Shannon Schuyler, PricewaterhouseCoopers’s corporate responsibility leader.

The technology company Intel offers a relatively new retiree benefit. Two years ago, the company introduced the Intel Encore Career Fellowship — a program that pays a one-year, $25,000 stipend to help retiring employees transition into post-retirement careers with a nonprofit organization.

So far, 200 retiring Intel employees have become Encore Fellows, said Julie Wirt, Intel’s global human resources retirement design manager. “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, Tex. Mr. Durrant, 58, retired last December, after 26 years with the company, and 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.

In June, after six months in his fellowship, he was hired full time to build relationships with nongovernmental organizations to improve teaching skills by using technology to help teachers. “We’re high-tech gunslingers,” Mr. Durrant said.

“It was perfect for me,” he said. “I had been offered a retirement package from Intel, but I couldn’t see why I would leave Intel. It was hard to see that there was another universe out there. But when the Encore Fellowship came into play it became clear — that set the compass.”

Intel isn’t the only company to test this kind of transition program. There have been Encore Fellows at an increasing number of businesses. Hewlett-Packard, for example, is a founding sponsor of the Encore Fellow program, and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group has also participated. Nonprofit groups that have participated include organizations like the Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico, Habitat for Humanity, the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Fla., and the Center for Fathers and Families in Sacramento.


Last year, Intel also started a pilot program that pays the tuition for retiring employees to go back to school through UCLA Extension continuing education certificate programs and a small-business incubator that offers mentoring and business planning advice for those pondering entrepreneurship.

Pay, however, is not what these kinds of work transitions are all about. Mr. 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,” Mr. 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, later adding, “That’s what I feel like now.”

And Ms. Jackson’s initial teaching salary was about one-third of her ending salary with IBM, or around $47,000. But she does have health and retirement benefits.

While these jobs are a boon for many retirees, volunteer projects are also in demand. Corporations like Intel and IBM are helping connect their former employees to volunteer opportunities in their communities. The Intel Retiree Organization, for instance, was created in 2008 to link more than 5,000 retirees worldwide. Retirees can gain access to volunteer resources on the retiree organization’s website.

Elaine Case, 59, of Rochester, Minn., is one of more than 17,000 IBM retiree volunteers, a number that has more than quadrupled since the program began in 2004. On Demand is a web-based portal with more than 11,000 projects listed. It also has educational tools for volunteers, like video presentations and training materials, on how to teach students in the sciences.

Three years ago, Ms. Case, a former vice president for marketing, retired after three decades with IBM. She had started volunteer work while she was at IBM and discovered a passion for it. “I probably have eight major things going right now and will volunteer close to 500 hours this year,” she said.

Her primary areas of focus: strategic planning with nonprofits, working on board governance to strengthen nonprofit boards and high school mentoring of children at risk. “I don’t know what I would do without this work,” she said. “I would probably have gone crazy. It gives you a sense of purpose and value.”

Share Button