Thursday, May 07, 2009

Grey Army on the march

A CULTURAL shift in recent years has put a bit of colour back in the cheeks of a big chunk of the population.
Now, hair dye sales could suffer because in some ways it’s becoming cool to "go gray".
Authorities seemed to take ages to wake up to the wealth of experience that older workers could offer.
A decade or so ago any 30-something worker might have cringed and checked their superannuation payout date at the first appearance of a grey hair (on the head, I mean).
But in recent years, a procession of labour market and social commentators has extolled the virtues of recycling mature workers from the metaphorical scrapheap of retirement and semi-retirement and into the workforce.

JAN D’Arcy could watch the trend with a smug smile. She long ago recognised the reliability and skill of older people and in 1997 became one of the first franchisees of the referral agency The Grey Army.
With area including the Redlands, Jan has assembled a battalion of "tradies", including builders, carpenters, tilers, painters, gardeners, plumbers, drainers, electricians, general handymen, pest controllers, roofers and domestic and commercial cleaners.
She says one of the rewards of her agency work has been the steady stream of thank-you calls and letters from satisfied customers – proving that grey is good because the jobs get done and well.
This week, however, a Thorneside client called to praise a house-painting crew, including some younger members, for their helpful and cheerful attitudes.
Jan makes it clear she still believes the younger generations can do a good job but she says The Grey Army’s soldiers are generally aged over 40 and qualified in their fields.
She ensures all her listed workers – offering services from lawnmowing to house extensions – have a customer focus.
Many have been on her books since day one.

SHE has enjoyed watching the excitement of some as they have returned to their beloved trades late in life – and thoroughly enjoyed the experiences.
Jan was thrilled when a carpenter who had migrated from New Zealand but did not for some years want the hassle of big jobs finally gained his Queensland builder’s licence, thanks to his work with The Grey Army.
"He qualified because he had been working with a registered builder, who gave him the reference he needed," she says.
With superannuation investments falling in the global economic gloom, The Grey Army may enlist new soliders but Jan says she will keep her focus on getting the right person for the job and keeping the customer satisfied.

Thanks for joining me to meet the great people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times, a Fairfax Media newspaper.

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