"We Have a Lot to Offer the Job World"
2008 Van Hove needed new skills and confidence for her next career move, but
the stress of unemployment was taking its toll on her ability to compete for
scarce jobs. At a job fair, she enrolled
in the Experience Works Senior Community Service Employment Program. Funded by
the U.S. Department of Labor, the program provides training, community service
work experience, and job-search help to low-income people age 55 and over.
her time on the program, she obtained valuable experience at the veterans
employment office and advanced her office skills through computer training.
her self-esteem improved. She began applying for two jobs a week and landed a
job with Franklin Park Lincoln Mercury. In two years there, she has continued
to build her responsibilities, hours of work, and benefits. “I just turned 60
in March, and I feel like 20,” Van Hove says. “We should never stop learning
new skills and keeping our brains active. We may grow older, but we don’t have
to become old. We have a lot to offer the job world.”
"I've Always Loved a Good Challenge!"
When hurricane Katrina forced Carolyn (Cookie) Price from
her home town of New Orleans, Louisiana
she relocated to Opelousas
to be with family. The retired army
veteran had impressive skills and a strong work ethic learned during a 17-year
stint as a supply sergeant at Fort
Polk, but jobs were few
and far between in the rural area.
The Experience Works Senior Community Service Employment
Program (SCSEP) provided the 59-year-old with an opportunity to build on her
strengths as an office worker for the St. Landry Parish Housing Authority. It wasn’t long before Price’s attitude and
willingness to learn caught the attention of everyone, but sadly there were no
funds to hire her.
It did, however, provide her with the necessary training to
land a job as a site manager for Les Petites Maisons, two section 811 apartment
complexes, sponsored by the Lafayette Council on Aging, which offers rental
subsidy and accommodations for seniors and individuals with disabilities. Currently, she is preparing to take an exam
to become a HUD certified occupancy specialist.
As a valued member of the Lafayette Council on Aging team,
Price looks forward to daily new and exciting challenges. “It’s not work – it’s fun,” she said. “I would have never have thought of doing
this type of work, but with the assistance of the Experience Works SCSEP, I
have a new career that I love.”
Old-Fashioned Work in a New Century
spent most of his working life as a hired man on Wisconsin’s dairy farms,
rising early to milk the cows. As the years passed, he tired of waking at 5 am
and moved to La Crosse in 1996 for indoor work. He loaded trucks at a
grocery-store chain warehouse, manned the sorting line at Waste Management, and did custodial work
at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. But in a shifting economy, none of
“I was putting in lots and
lots of applications, but only young people were getting hired,” says Fayerweather,
now 60. Frustrated, he appealed to Experience Works, which he recalled from its
days as Green Thumb. He took computer classes, assembled a resume, and attended
began training through the Senior Community Service Employment Program at
Hillview Greenhouse Life Center and at Hunger Task Force of La Crosse. Both
assignments honed his customer service skills and connected him with a
cross-section of the community. “Experience
Works is a good training program. It helps people find a job,” he says simply.
In Fayerweather’s case, the job was close at hand.
Experience Works leases office space in the five-story Batavian
Building, built in the 1880s, which has one of the city’s only two
human-operated elevators. When a position came open to operate one of them,
Fayerweather’s employment and training coordinator arranged a
monthlong on-the-job training spot for him.
In summer 2012, that tryout became a job. “He’s done
great. He gets along with the tenants, and we’re happy to have him,” says Mike
Keil, co-owner of the Batavian Building.
“People joke with me that the job has a lot of ups and
downs,” Fayerweather says. Does he ever get tired of hearing that? “Nah. The
guy before me retired at 78, and the other fellow I work with is 80 years old,
so I can go for a good while here.”
An Optimist, an Ambassador, an Eager Learner
Lynn Garbert tells people at church about Experience Works.
She tells people where she lives in Medford, Ore., too. So far, three of her
friends have qualified and enrolled in the Senior Community Service Employment
Program. “One even got a job in July, as a site manager at Food & Friends,”
she says with a grin.
Garbert is assigned to the Jackson County Experience Works
office as an administrative assistant after first training at the Jacksonville
Museum. She has office skills in spades and excels at teaching them to fellow
participants through Teknimedia, an interactive computer skills tutorial.
She also, says employment and training coordinator Fred Garcia,
falls into the category of what the U.S. Department of Labor calls “most in need”
– people who have the greatest difficulty finding employment. Despite
disabilities such as Tourette syndrome, “she’s my backbone,” he says. “Her
skills and her disposition are terrific, and she’s more than willing to help with
any situation we run into.”
Garbert has led a varied life. A high-school business major,
she’d first worked for the federal government in Los Angeles as a proofreader
and creator of filing systems. Garbert and her late husband farmed the
California desert, overseeing everything from milk and egg production to
irrigation. Then came coordinating a 1,000-member church audio department, supporting
customer service at Harry & David, and acting as unpaid caregiver for
Garbert looked for work for 2-1/2 years before finding
Experience Works, where she has taken four or five classes. “It’s honed my
skills, given me more confidence, helped me grow, and surrounded me with
positive people,” she says. “It keeps a roof over my head. Without Experience
Works, I’d be homeless.”
Greater confidence may have paid off in greater health.
Garbert credits better nutrition, “moving more,” and colleagues’ encouragement with
an 80-pound weight loss in six months. Though her goal was simply “to be
healthier,” she says she’s no longer diabetic and has maintained her current
weight for three months. “I didn’t like the process, but I like the results,”
Although finding a permanent job has proved difficult, Garbert
keeps working with the JobReady assessment tool and job-search system.
“I’m learning to be an optimist,” she says. “Being a participant with
Experience Works SCSEP has provided excellent training, and I am privileged to
work with an awesome team.”
"I Thought a Mouse Was Something That Ran Around"
In Chico and Butte County, California, Valerie Plelan worked
as an instructor at the ARC’s day program for developmentally disabled adults.
For years she did socialization and work training, teaching independent living
skills with patience and care. She’d also worked for the state’s Department of
“I love working with people,” she says. “I love the one-on-one.”
Her daughters’ families were in Texas, though, so in 2006
Phelan moved south to help with her grandchildren. There her career skills hit
a wall. With no connections and no computer knowledge – and therefore no resume
– she couldn’t find a job.
After a time, one daughter suggested the McKinney, Texas, Workforce
Center. That’s where Plelan encountered Experience Works. The EW staff set to
work on two fronts: teaching marketable skills and building Phelan’s inner
resources to face the employment market again.
“I didn’t know what a [computer] mouse was. It was something
that ran around,” she says. “If not for Experience Works, I wouldn’t have an
email address.” Classes taught her the basics of Microsoft documents and
recordkeeping. Through Job Club, she wrote a resume, heard do’s and don’ts for
a job search, got interviewing and grooming advice, and did role playing.
Then there was the public training. Phelan’s first
assignment was in customer service at the Workforce Center. Next she became a
participant assistant at Experience Works, where she determined newcomers’
eligibility for services and made connections with host agencies in the greater
region. In 2012, she moved to McKinney Performing Arts Center, where she
answered visitors’ questions, led tours, and promoted historic Main Street.
What’s the advantage of having more than one training
assignment? “I’m shy and withdrawn,” she says, “so exposure to a variety of
nonprofits was very helpful.”
In July 2012, Phelan found private-sector employment as a
caregiver for a developmentally disabled person – work that draws on her
special-needs background and a lifetime of service experience. On the side,
she’s continued at the arts center as a volunteer. “It was such a joyful
experience, I couldn’t give it up,” she explains. “It brings the community