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Bringing wisdom to the workplace
In June 7 issue, Russell County News
By Kim Graham
Russell County News Reporter

“Working keeps people healthy and active,” said Experience Works Employment and Training Coordinator Karen Miller. “It’s so important for our seniors to keep active.”

Many senior citizens in Russell County keep active by continuing to be a part of the workforce with the help of Experience Works programs.

“Basically, this gets me out of the house and I learn something new every day,” said Experience Works participant Shirley Egger.

Egger is a former Employment and Training Assistant for Experience Works and she’s now in the training program working for the Cumberlands Workforce Network at Lake Cumberland Area Development District (LCADD).

Experience Works, formerly known as Green Thumb, is a non-profit organization that offers training, employment and community service opportunities for mature workers age 55 or older.

Funded by the US Department of Labor through Title 5 wages of the Older Americans Act, Experience Works is the nation’s oldest and largest provider of employment and training for seniors.

Russell County resident Jet Shepard has been a member of the public workforce for about 45 years.

Shepard’s last job was with in Campbellsville but they began contracting the work instead of employing their own staff.

The contract salary was insufficient to make the job worthwhile for the 70 mile round trip commute so Shepard began job hunting.

Shepard said some of her friends had gotten jobs through Experience Works and she heard it was a good way to get part-time work.

“It’s hard to find jobs,” said Shepard. “They won’t even look at your application when you’re our age.”

Through Experience Works’ Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), she landed a part-time job working 15 hours a week as a receptionist and greeter at the Russell County Courthouse.

“Jet is really good,” said Russell County Fiscal Court Judge Mickey Garner. “She’s outgoing.”

In a time when customer service seems to be a thing of the past, seniors have the customer service skills many employers want to see.

They will talk to the customer and make them feel welcome.

Visitors to the courthouse are greeted by Shepard and she directs them to the office or court room they are looking to find.

Russell County Fiscal Court employs two Experience Works seniors through the community service program.

The fiscal court is one of several local government offices acting as a host agency for Experience Works participants to receive training.

The program is as beneficial to the employers as well as the employees.

“It’s a good program for helping people 55 and older find work and there’s no expense to the county,” said Garner.

To qualify as a host agency or training site, the organization must be a 501-C3 non-profit or any office of city, county, state or federal government.

“We’re always looking for host agencies to provide training positions,” said Miller. “In return they get 20 hours work a week free.”

Agencies benefit by receiving a skilled, experienced worker at no cost to them while the SCSEP participant receives valuable on the job training and local experience for their resume.

“It’s a training program and we pay a stipend of $5.25 per hour for 20 hours per week,” said Miller.

Many participants are highly qualified applicants with degrees in their field but they need the local experience in order to be attractive to employers.

In 1999, Jo Angeles moved to Russell County from Bowling Green with a degree in social work and 13 years experience in her field.

She couldn’t find a job but she volunteered at the Children’s Advocacy Center. Then she became an Experience Works participant and worked there through SCSEP and later was hired in a full time position.

“Experience works helped since I didn’t know anyone,” said Angeles. “I had to get in there and show them what I would do.”

Angeles had the need again to use the services of Experience Works and went to work for the Aging Department at LCADD.

Now she is a Resource Manager for Aging and Disability Resource Management at LCADD.

Miller says about 50% of participants in the SCSEP are hired by the organization where they are training.

Other services offered by Experience Works include free vocational classes to help applicants become more employable such as computer courses or welding classes.

“It’s very important to have computer experience and (Experience Works) has offered it free,” said Angeles. “I have taken computer classes here at the Learning Center to learn basic skills.”

Egger, who had many years experience in bookkeeping and payroll has received her computer training on the job.

“We take skills they already have and add to them,” said Melody Haynes, LCADD Cumberlands Workforce Network Career Manager. “Shirley had the phone and people skills and we trained her on the job to use our computer system.”

Experience Works also assists seniors with vocational exploration to decide what they might like to do. Then seniors receive help with their job search, completing applications, resume writing skills, and pointers for giving a good job interview.

Distinguishing attributes of older workers are their dependability and their strong work ethic.

They rarely miss work, they show up for work on time and they take the initiative to get things done without being told.

“I have worked in the field of senior employment for 18 years,” said Miller. “I can attest first hand that seniors are the most reliable, trustworthy, appreciative individuals in the world.”

She says that life experience gives seniors a calm, cool head during stressful situations and they are great mentors to other employees.

“In 10 years, it’s estimated that 75percent of America’s population will be 55 and older. We need to be ready to address the issues of folks who are living longer lives,” Miller said.

“Our seniors are people who came from an era when your word and a handshake meant something. Employers need to figure out they’re the best catch.”

For more information contact Ohreta Sprague at 866-6126 or Karen Miller at 606-678-5700 or toll free at 1-877-820-5939.
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