Seniors return to work force

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Older workers who are unsuccessfully seeking new employment may want to consider the benefits the Experience Works program offered through the Missouri Career Center in Monett.

Experience Works is a national, charitable, community-based organization that, for over 40 years, has helped older adults get the training they need to find jobs in their communities.

"So many companies require some form of computer literacy," said Vanessa Irons, employment and training coordinator with Experience Works. "Many older workers don't know how to do that."

"People return to the workforce for a variety of reasons," Irons continued. "They might have been laid off from another job, suffered economic downturn due to the death of a spouse or are having to pay major medical bills."

For older workers seeking employment, Experience Works provides training and skills necessary to compete for jobs in today's market.

One Cassville resident, David Cape, has been training through the Experience Works program for over two years, and with the training provided through the program, was able to land a job at the Cassville Senior Center.

"I lost my job at George's Hatchery in Butterfield in April of 2008," Cape said. "I applied at several different places and didn't know where else to turn."

Then Cape saw an advertisement for the Experience Works program.

"I took computer classes at the Cassville Senior Center through Experience Works, and then trained at Crosslines in Monett; Haven of the Ozarks animal sanctuary and Roaring River State Park," Cape said. "Now I work 35 hours a week at the senior center."

"He's wonderful," said Cassville Senior Center Administrator Linda Parker. "We've actually had three different people training through Experience Works at the Center. They are excellent employees."

Parker said much of the concern about personnel issues are immediately alleviated when hiring an individual through Experience Works.

"You won't have people taking off work to give birth or take care of sick kids," she explained. "Older workers are more reliable, have a better work ethic and are more responsible."

"This is a great program for someone in need," Cape said. "They helped me out quite a bit with financial issues and training."

Cape works for the senior board, and his duties primarily are to make sure the senior center receives much needed maintenance.

"David does a lot of customer service for the center in addition to his regular duties," Parker said. "He's a lot more than a janitor. He's built relationships with people and they depend on him a lot."

Although he has been hired at the senior center, Cape's training isn't quite over yet.

"I get to learn how to run the buffer and keep the floors in good shape," he said. "It's a pretty technical piece of machinery."

"Experience Works provides the baby steps an older worker may need to get back into the work force," Parker said. "It's a chance for many people to start over."

"It also makes older workers feel valued," added Vernice  Adams, eligibility specialist for the Experience Works program at the Missouri Career Center in Monett. "So much of the time, people feel they have nothing to offer."

The goal of the program is to sharpen the skills that workers already have and train them in additional areas, such as computer literacy.

Those on the program are encouraged to find employment before the four-year time limit is up, making room for other older workers to get started on their skills training and job search.

"We would like to have 20 to 25 workers in Barry and Lawrence counties in the program," Irons said. "The maximum number we could have at any one time is 30."

The program is funded in part through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Trainees are paid minimum wage to work 20 hours a week for a variety of program partners to determine their best skills and options.

"I feel great about the program," Cape said. "Experience Works helped me through that time when I was unemployed and looking everywhere for work. It helped me feel better about myself."

"David is a real bonus to the senior center," Parker said. "He is willing to do anything and he fits in really well here. The board is very pleased with his work."

For more information on Experience Works, visit the Missouri Career Center at 511 S. Kyler St. in Monett or call 235-7877.

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