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.”
One way they are helped is participating in a Job Club, like the one recently held at the Main Library.
The club meets twice a week for eight weeks. It typically consists of 6-8 people where Experience Works staff show them how to start a job search.
Topics cover everything from submitting a resume, navigating the Internet and, of course, correctly filling out a time card.
However, even those possessing these successful skills still may require a refresher course.
William Horn has a management degree from Indiana Tech. He has worked in retail management, but the 60-year-old Kokomo man found himself unemployed.
Horn has been a part of the Job Club for six months to “update my skills and make some new business contacts. I want to get back into retail management.”
Participants use their job-training skills at non-profit and community organizations, said Hooker. And once they get a “real” job, participants’ wages are paid by Experience Works, not the employer.
In fact, she adds, at no-cost to an employer, the organization screens applicants and can custom-train them for an employer’s particular job.
As a result, with the economy being dismal for most anyone seeking employment, Hooker expects more qualified people to seek the organization’s training.
In February 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated there were 1.6 million unemployed workers age 55 and older, and the number of low-income, older people at-risk for homelessness has increased 140 percent since January 2008.
“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers age 50-plus will constitute 21.2 percent of the labor force by 2014,” says Hooker, who covers 12 counties and has had success placing participants at local Wal-Mart stores. “In the last 10 years, more than 55,600 low-income seniors found employment through our services.
“We have people who have come to us with all levels of education. But when you don’t have a job, sometimes you have to build them up and help them rebuild their lives. The longer you are out of work, your self-esteem and work skills can go down. When they leave us, they emerge as ‘someone wants to hire me,’ instead of ‘someone doesn’t want me.’ We want them to use the skills we offer to get an edge on the job they want to have.”
In February, President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The act allocates an additional $120 million to SCSEP.
The additional money will allow Case to go from serving 358 individuals to 420 low-income Hoosier seniors.
Green Thumb. SCSEP. Experience Works. The name changes but the dollars will continue to do the same job: Help low-income people 55 and older get the job they want to have.
“This is welcome news for many older job seekers who, because of their current economic situation, need to re-enter the work force,” said Case, adding the number of people requesting assistance is up. In December 2008, there were 16,000 Hoosiers age 55 and older unemployed and looking for work, up 7 percent from December 2007.
“This program provides an important safety net and stepping stone for many who are facing difficult times. The stimulus money will allow us to provide additional services to older workers and their communities,” Case said.
“We are not talking about people who need a little extra income to help pay for their hobbies. We are seeing people who need jobs to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table and medicine in the cabinet. With the additional money provided, we will be able to help more older workers re-tool and re-enter the work force.”
K.O. Jackson can be reached at (765) 854-6739 or via e-mail email@example.com.
Experience Works in Indiana:
• If you are a low-income senior interested in job-search assistance, call Jake Fettner at (765) 319-3351.
• If you are a non-profit organization that would like to participate in the program, or if you are an employer interested in hiring older workers, call (765) 447-8408, (866) 796-8550 or visit www.experienceworks.org for additional information.
• Fun fact: In a typical year, Indiana participants in Experience Works, working 18-20 hours a week, have provided more than 1,551,000 hours of service to their communities by doing their paid-training assignments at local non-profit and public entities, the organization said. The value of their services has been approximately $26,367,000.
Using an easy, calm voice, Ruth Hooker explained how to correctly fill out a time card.
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