Sometimes, it takes a little extra push to help you reach your goals. Wooster native Sherry needed just that when she found herself needing a new career path. She needed a less physically demanding job and, having received a lot of assistance after a house fire, knew she wanted to give back to others providing similar services. She also knew that to work in an office she needed to update her digital skills in order to attract the attention of employers. When Sherry was provided information about the Vantage Aging SCSEP program, she wanted to find out more about how the program may help.
Sherry decided to enroll in Vantage Aging’s Senior Community Service Employment Program, where she received paid job training and digital training to enhance her job marketability and reach her Career Pathway goal related to Customer Services and becoming an administrative assistant.
Sherry’s past employment
In the past, Sherry worked an office job at Rubbermaid where she did data communications. Other employees would call her office with mold and color changes, and Sherry would enter them into the computer.
When the Rubbermaid factory closed, Sherry was employed with Frito-Lay where she worked in sanitation and packaging products. It was hard work cleaning the equipment. She also had experience as a cook at a nursing home.
When Sherry’s employment with Frito-Lay ended, she wasn’t quite sure what to do next especially knowing she needed to pursue a less physically demanding career.
Finding Vantage’s SCSEP program
Sherry decided to volunteer as a way to fill her time and give back to those who helped her through a difficult event. It was during that time Sherry learned about Vantage Aging’s Senior Community Service Employment program.
Funded by the Department of Labor and Ohio Department of Aging, Vantage’s Senior Community Service Employment Program provides paid, hands-on training to job seekers age 55 and older who are trying to re-enter the workforce.
Vantage provides the SCSEP program in 38 Ohio counties to hundreds of older job seekers each year. By empowering older adults with the skills and confidence they need to reach their career goals, the program contributes to healthier local economies and more independent, self-sufficient community members across the state.
Sherry decided to give SCSEP a try to gain more office skills and experience. She felt they would be useful and help open more doors for her next career chapter. Sherry had the opportunity to be a SCSEP job seeker at the Red Cross and was paid for her training in an office setting.
Digital Inclusion program
In May 2021, Sherry was invited to join the first group of Vantage’s Digital Inclusion learners.
The Digital Inclusion program improves digital access and computer competencies of older Ohioans through access to digital devices and personalized, one-on-one coaching sessions from trained digital navigators in partnership with the Ohio Department of Aging.
Digital training modules provide a basic skill set that helps older job seekers be more competitive in today’s market. Some of the skill-tested certifications available include Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), Google Docs, navigating the internet, email etiquette, career searching, and social media. With this digital training as their foundation, job seekers can confidently practice their new skills at their training sites and prepare themselves for employment in the modern workforce. By including these skill-tested certifications on their resume, job seekers demonstrate to potential employers that they have digital aptitude and that they’re committed to lifelong learning.
Before training with Vantage, Sherry had some experience with digital devices, but the information was outdated and specific to her past employers. Starting out in the new Digital Inclusion program, she was nervous about using technology.
“I wondered, can I do this? But I had a wonderful teacher who helped me,” said Sherry. “I don’t think I could have gone as far as I had without her.”
Sherry worked on the foundational program for six weeks and earned industry-recognized certifications. Due to health issues, she had to put a pause on her Digital Inclusion training. Though it was tough, she chose not to go on leave and continued as a SCSEP job seeker.
One year later, Sherry returned to training with the Digital Inclusion program, successfully gaining certifications in MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and a couple of elective modules. She continues her SCSEP training, using PowerPoint and Microsoft Word daily while expanding her knowledge of digital applications.
Access to digital equipment
As part of Vantage’s Digital Inclusion program, learners receive a new laptop and hotspot. This allows them to access reliable, safe devices they can use to improve their professional and personal lives for things such as applying for jobs, looking up information, and virtual doctor visits, in addition to their digital training.
After 12 months of free internet, learners can choose to pay $15 per month for ongoing internet. Learners are able to independently practice new modules or return to past modules on their own time.
“The new laptop installed with Microsoft Office and hotspot helped me tremendously,” said Sherry. “I couldn’t have done this without the equipment because I would not have been able to afford it. It was great that Vantage was able to provide the tools I needed to continue my education.”
Gaining confidence in technology
The one-on-one nature of Vantage’s Digital Inclusion program helps learners gain self-confidence alongside their newfound skills. Many begin the program intimidated by technology. Working through the first few modules often sparks a newfound confidence.
“I liked the one-on-one with a digital navigator,” said Sherry. “I didn’t feel pressured to move at a certain pace. I could go at my own speed with the navigator coaching me through each step.”
What Sherry is most proud of
Before the Digital Inclusion program, Sherry faced barriers that held her back from gaining the kinds of employment opportunities that she wanted. By overcoming some health issues and working towards gaining digital skills she could use in an office setting, she now feels better prepared for her next chapter.
“I am most proud of how I came back from my medical issues and continued with the Digital Inclusion program,” said Sherry. “I knew I could expand my knowledge and I was able to learn more skills.”
The Digital Inclusion program also helped Sherry better navigate her cell phone and understand internet risks.
“It surprised me that I actually could do the program and do well on the different lessons,” said Sherry. “I have a granddaughter that would tell me, ‘Grandma, I knew you could do it’.”
What’s next for Sherry? She wants to continue to develop her digital skillset at her training site and find permanent employment. She encourages other older adults to embrace digital learning to improve their own lives.
“I was nervous when I started the Digital Inclusion program, but the navigators made me feel comfortable and confident,” said Sherry. “I would tell other people not to be scared to give learning new technology skills a try because it comes easy with this program.”
Sherry also talked about the importance of continuing the Digital Inclusion program for other older job seekers.
“It gives people like us a chance to learn the material we never had the chance to learn,” said Sherry. “Having access to more knowledge helps us further our education and have the equipment to do it. I was honored to be a part of this program and have the chance to learn new skills.”