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Senior Lifestyles

Programs give older job seekers edge

8/1/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

WEST AKRON — Older adults wanting to re-enter the workforce can find help at Akron’s Mature Services.

Two programs — Job Club and the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) — have helped hundreds of Mature Services clients find work or change careers over the years, according to agency officials.

Caroline Barborak, SCSEP project director, recommends that adults 50 and older who are interested in exploring opportunities available at Mature Services attend an orientation session to learn more about the programs and find out which is best for them. The next orientation sessions are scheduled Aug. 7 and 14 from 2 to 5 p.m. and Aug. 21 and 28 from 9 a.m. to noon at Mature Services, 415 S. Portage Path.

The SCSEP program has been offered since Mature Services started in 1975, Barborak said. The program helps income-qualified adults older than 55.

“It’s for people who may have retired or found themselves out of a job for some reason,” she said. “They do community service hours and get a small stipend and get on-the-job training.”

Clients are evaluated through an intake session to see what skills and experience they already have. Staff and clients work together to create an Individual Employment Plan that includes goals.

“They might need to learn Excel or take interview classes or learn how to dress for a job interview,” Barborak said. “It can vary. Someone who is pretty work ready and just needs to polish up their skills might need six months, but someone who may have been a homemaker or doesn’t know computers may need a couple of years in the program. Our targeted goal is we try to get them in and out in six months to a year.”

Participants in SCSEP typically are interested in and placed in administrative assistant, janitorial, nutrition, health care and transportation positions with nonprofit agencies. Many of them end up with permanent positions as a result of the experience, she added.

“A lot of participants get hired at their host agency, and that’s the best-case scenario,” Barborak said. “We also have good relationships in the business community.”

Don Zirkle, Mature Services’ training and placement specialist, oversees Job Club, which is another option for job seekers 50 and older. The free program provides an intense three weeks of class time in which participants learn more about today’s job-hunting techniques.

“We cover how to put together a résumé that’s effective, how to completely fill out an application and what employers are looking for on an application,” Zirkle said. “We also talk to them about background checks, and if they have bad credit, how to clean up their credit.”

Job Club also helps the participants deal with the emotional aspects of job seeking, Zirkle said.

“People hold grudges,” Zirkle said. “We start out telling them to forgive the company, forgive the boss and then forgive yourself. Then we take it from there.”

Job Club members also learn how to research potential employers and are charged with selecting three companies in which they are interested. They must find out the names of key people in the company and make cold calls to inquire about working there, Zirkle said.

Participants also get to hear from companies that are hiring and get to take part in mock interviews.

Zirkle said once the class is completed, Job Club participants can continue to receive support and networking through an alumni group that meets every other week.

Mature Services officials said employers are learning that older workers are a valuable part of the workforce.

“Overall, we are seeing an increase in the placement of older workers as employers become more aware of their low turnover rates and recognize the strong work ethic they bring to the job,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, manager of marketing and communications. “We see this particularly among Job Club graduates. For instance, there were five placements from the last morning Job Club, and three from the afternoon, and the average placement rate for the last year is around 78 percent.”

Mature Services hosts an annual Job and Career Fair each spring, but Zirkle said the agency also hosts mini job fairs every other month. They typically feature representatives from a few companies who give presentations on their businesses and what kinds of positions they have available. Following the presentations, attendees have the chance to network and find out more about the jobs. The next mini job fair is Aug. 29 at 2:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church in Downtown Akron. It’s open to those who have attended a Mature Services orientation, Zirkle said.

For more information, call Mature Services at 330-253-4597 or go to www.matureservices.org.

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