Program gives seniors new job skills
JANESVILLE At age 70, Karen Nelson isn't ready for retirement.
She tried it once for a couple of years, but she found it boring.
That's why the Janesville woman recently enrolled in an employability program to hone her skills for a difficult job market.
Nelson and nine others recently completed a short, intensive program designed to help older workers get back in the job market.
The Power grant program is designed for workers facing long-term unemployment who are at least 55 years old.
The two-week course in May—believed to be the first of its kind—used Manpower staff to help seniors with an array of basic job-search tasks and business etiquette.
"These folks are a ways from retirement and need income," said Ryan Schomber, work services coordinator for the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board. "The program helps these folks get the skills they need, things like setting up resumes, learning how to manage email and include attachments.
"Jobseekers today need to know how to use email effectively before they can even apply for a job."
Nelson said she's always enjoyed working with the public. She worked for 24 years for Beloit Clinic before retiring, getting bored and then taking a job with Community Action.
Funding cuts eventually eliminated her position, and she's now back in the job market.
"I'm very glad I took the class," she said. "It was a very good program."
Nelson said she has prior computer experience, something that some of her classmates didn't have.
"These days it's absolutely necessary," she said.
The program—still in the pilot stage—was born out of necessity, said Bob Borremans, the board's executive director.
At the Rock County Job Center, the board already offers Wisconsin Senior Employment, a training and employment training for employment program for older people that focuses on community service activities.
Enrollments for the WISE program have been escalating, and funding challenges have necessitated waiting lists.
In a partnership with Manpower, staff developed the Power grant program to help people on the waiting list who would benefit from a short-term program that emphasized basic skills.
Schomber said the new program also is appealing to older people not interested in returning to technical school for full-blown one- or two-year programs.
Manpower trainers delivered May's session at the job center. The employment company has a catalog of more than 4,000 courses, most of which are short-term and therefore adaptable to the Power grant program, Borremans said.
"We identified the issue by the end of April, planned it out and delivered it in a month for a fraction of the cost that it would be through the technical college system," he said.
"This program helps those that don't want to get into a one- or two-year program and don't see themselves staying in the workforce for longer periods of time."
Schomber said for many people 55 and older, going back to school for one or two years is a major commitment after they've been out of school for so long.
"Many of the things taught in the program are things that many of these people might not have been exposed to or needed if they had a long career somewhere else," said Harold Luther, the board's employment programs coordinator.
With the proper training, many older workers can become very valuable employees in today's marketplace, Borremans said.
Employers, Borremans said, often look for technology-savvy younger workers and their generally lower wage demands. But in doing that, employers often miss the dedication and leadership that older workers typically deliver.
"With these people, you get tremendous loyalty," Luther said. "They will be there, and they really enjoy being part of something.
"They have experience that a lot of younger workers don't have, and there's no questioning their work ethic."
Schomber said younger workers will often bolt for a different job if it pays slightly more.
Luther said that none of the 10 who went through the first Power Grant program has landed a job. But, he said, it's still early.
"Each of them has emailed me back, so I know that part of the program worked," he said. "If they aren't immediately successful, I hope to get them all back into the WISE program."