Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

May 4, 2009

ECONOMY: Stimulus spending creates jobs for older workers

By Joyce Miles<br><a href="mailto:joyce.miles@lockportjournal.com">E-mail Joyce</a>

Older Americans looking for work, take note: Experience Works.

The federal senior citizen job training and placement program has received a funding boost. It means the Niagara County office is able to help more seniors acquire the skills they need to land part- or full-time work in a variety of settings.

Experience Works, formerly called Green Thumb, is for county residents 55 and older with limited income (no more than 125 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines) and a desire to go or get back into the working world.

The program matches seniors with not-for-profit agencies where they can learn as they do: computer work, reception, clerking, child care, indoor/outdoor maintenance, et cetera. Participants are paid to learn, then when they’re ready to go out and compete in the open market, Experience Works assists their jobs searches.

Locally, some workplaces hosting senior job training now include the Kenan Center, Madonna House, the Salvation Army and the state Department of Labor.

The Niagara County office of Experience Works has funding to work with at least 50 seniors through mid 2010, according to Rich Saxton, regional employment and training coordinator.

There’s currently no waiting list for program entry. The local office is in the Trott Access Center, Niagara Falls. To inquire about eligibility, call (800) 854-1578.

Here’s this week’s Q&A; with Rich Saxton, talking about Experience Works and the ways it helps older Americans hold their own in a tough job market.


Question: What’s involved in job training?

Answer: It’s hands-on, real-life training in offices, in not-for-profit agencies in the community. It’s like a college internship. You’re paid minimum wage to work and learn. The Department of Labor OKs us for 18 hours a week, presently.

We can do mobile computer training, meaning Experience Works provides it; we can do online training for those who have access to the Internet.

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We can also send participants to limited classes, depending on what their job goals are.

Before you’re sent anywhere, we do an assessment to give you, and us, an idea where we want to go. We try to match you up with jobs that are really available in the community.


Q: What will a senior learn in an Experience Works internship?

A: It depends on where they’re placed. In some cases participants may be working with Material Data Safety Sheets; that’s an OSHA requirement that’s often new to people. Maybe they’re learning the use of high-end copy machines or putting computer skills to work in real work situations. In some cases, it’s just about working with different groups of people and learning how to get along in that environment.


Q: What job types do you place seniors in?

A: We just placed a gentleman into a combination job: He’s doing lawn care and outdoor maintenance and, as a result of his (internship) he’s also the evening person-on-call for a housing authority; his housing and utilities are free. It’s two separate positions, a daytime job to make money and the on-call job which benefits him elsewise.

Positions could be home health aide, residential aide, activity or recreation aide in a care facility. Some participants may be seeking Certified Nursing Aide certification.

About 20 percent of our participants find employment in the clerical field; that’s probably our largest field.

There’s food service, indoor maintenance; we’ve had some get management positions, although those usually require some prior skill sets.


Q: In a tight job market especially, doesn’t age work against older job seekers?

A: I’ll agree age could be a deterrent, but there’s discrimination for everything you can imagine: too old, too young, too tall, too skinny. Age is just one on this list.

One of the advantages of older workers is experience. They’ve experienced life and different types of people; they have the ability to get along. They usually don’t have dependent children, so they don’t need time off to deal with doctor’s appointments, parent-teacher conferences and the like. They tend to be more reliable; they show up for work and on time; they’re probably not out partying at night and engaging in behaviors that discourage work the next day. They bring skills into the workplace that can help younger people.