September 12, 2010
Local programs help older job hunters brush up on work and career-finding skills
Special to NWjobs
When Eric Brown completed a cabinetmaking program at a local community college last year, he found the construction industry hard-hit by the recession and jobs hard to find — especially for older workers.
“It seems like everyone wants 25-year-old people with 30 years’ experience,” jokes Brown, 57. After a year of looking for work, “I was getting kind of desperate,” the Auburn resident says.
Then Brown spotted a flyer advertising the AARP Foundation WorkSearch Senior Community Service Employment Program, for those 55 and older who meet income guidelines. The federally funded program places older workers in minimum-wage training assignments with nonprofit organizations, giving them an income while they look for permanent work.
“I’ve heard they really go to bat for you and help you look,” says Brown, who recently qualified for the program.
Here are some local programs for older job seekers.
AARP Foundation WorkSearch: 206-624-6698, aarpworksearch.org
Age 55+ Employment Resource Center: 206-684-0500, cityofseattle.net/humanservices/seniorsdisabled/mosc/employment.htm
Mature Workers Alliance of Puget Sound: 206-448-0474, matureworkersalliance.org
WorkSource Seattle-King County: worksourceskc.org
He works 25 hours a week at the Federal Way Senior Center and meets monthly with Maxine Pierce, a WorkSearch employment specialist, to get help beefing up his résumé, interview techniques and job skills. So far, Pierce has sent Brown on about a dozen job leads.
Once a month, Brown also meets with Pierce’s other clients in a networking group called YYC (Yes You Can). Brown hopes to be accepted into a cabinetmaker apprenticeship program, which the AARP program could pay for, Pierce says. Brown had worked as a Teamster at UPS before deciding to follow his interest in woodworking. He got through school with student loans and savings.
Brown is an example of how tough it can be for those 55 and older to find work — especially if they were laid off after years in the same job, or are returning to work out of financial necessity.
In August, the national unemployment rate was 7.3 percent for workers 55 and older. “Statistics show it’s taking older workers longer to find jobs,” says Marvin Stern, an employment and training specialist who leads the Mature Worker Job Club at the WorkSource office in Renton.
But programs like Stern’s job club, AARP WorkSearch and two programs at the Seattle Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens focus on getting older workers the skills they need to return to the work force.
Many older job seekers “don’t have a clue how to conduct a job search in today’s job-seeking world,” says Nora Norminton, project director for the Seattle WorkSearch office. “They don’t know the first thing about networking. They don’t know about LinkedIn or Facebook.”
At the Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens, its Age 55+ Employment Resource Center gives Seattle residents 55 and older access to computers, training, job counseling and workshops. The center’s Title V Senior Community Service Employment Program, open to low-income King County residents, is similar to the WorkSearch training program.
Sometimes all an older job seeker needs to be competitive are a couple of classes to update skills, Norminton says. For people 40 and older who qualify, WorkSearch’s Training Assistance Program provides paid training, she says.
Toni Emerson, who has been unemployed for nearly two years, says her recent participation in the Renton WorkSource job club helped her land a second interview with one employer and interest from another.
“I had gotten negative feedback from [an] interview and I talked about it in the job club,” says Emerson, 58. She got interviewing tips and is working to improve her network by e-mailing people she knows and requesting informational interviews.
“It’s been difficult for me to get up enough nerve,” the Seattle resident says, but adds that meeting weekly with others in the same situation helped. “The supportive environment was just as important as the information we got.”
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