Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 27, 2009

Organization helps older residents re-enter workplace

Using an easy, calm voice, Ruth Hooker explained how to correctly fill out a time card.

In a conference room at the Kokomo-Howard County Main Library, Hooker, employment and training coordinator for the Lafayette-based Experience Works, made sure the woman didn’t use her Social Security number but rather her worker’s ID number on the time card.

Filling out a time card doesn’t seem that complex of an issue – unless you are a lower-income person over 55 years old and seeking job training.

In 1965, the non-profit Green Thumb project was created and signed into law by President Johnson as part of his War on Poverty. The project was designed to provide jobs for disadvantaged rural seniors in four states.

Green Thumb eventually became the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). It is now known as Experience Works, said Celia Case, the organization’s regional communications coordinator in Indiana.

Experience Works is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. It is free to participants 55 and older meeting the federal low-income criteria.

The name has changed since its conception, but its purpose remains the same: Help seniors age 55 and above get paid job-skills training and search for employment.

Or as Case said, “whatever it takes to help them get jobs.”

“Finding work is especially difficult for older people who may have been out of the job-search process for 20 or 30 years and are not familiar with current resume styles and applying for jobs online. Older workers may lack technical and computer skills required in today’s workplace,” Case explained. “We help them update their job skills and teach jobs skills to those who have never had a job and are entering the work force for the first time.

“Some are here because an illness may have wiped out their savings or it’s a housewife who has never worked. There are many different reasons bringing them to us, and we are here to help them.”

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