Learning Digital Skills as a Seasoned Dietitian: Pamela’s Story

Pamela graduated from Youngstown State University in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and nutrition. During her senior year, she gave birth to her son and after graduation, she took a job with the Department of Corrections as the first female Dietitian at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

She moved into her new home from Youngstown to Portsmouth, Ohio without ever seeing it before the day she moved in. Pamela remembers pulling into the southern Ohio driveway with a U-Haul and baby in tow, ready to take on her new adventure.

She faced moving across the state and raising a child alongside the 1993 riots at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, where guards were held hostage by some of the state’s most dangerous inmates.

Pamela did not let this deter her from pursuing a career as a dietitian. After a few years in Portsmouth, she moved to Dayton to help open a new minimum-security center that focused on education. Pamela hosted Black History Events to educate and inspire inmates and brought in local speakers to share cultural ideas.

Throughout her career, Pamela has worked at several other rehabilitation facilities in the Dayton area. She also established an early childhood enrichment center that focused on early literacy and nature studies.

Pamela maintains her credentials in dietetics and food service management today after more than 20 years. Her son is a combat Veteran, owns his own semi-truck, and is a proud father to Pamela’s grandson.

“That’s the thing about living a while – you’re able to do a lot of things,” said Pamela. I’ve gotten to experience a lot of things that really grew me as a person, from volunteering in the community to having my own business to doing consulting.”

Enrolling in Vantage’s SCSEP program

Like most people, life turned Pamela towards a different focus when her family needed her most. In 2015, she made the decision to return to Youngstown from Dayton to care for her mother who was battling cancer. Sadly, nine days after she moved back, her mother passed away.

Pamela had a feeling for some time that she was going to return to Youngstown. But she wasn’t sure what opportunities would match her skillset and income requirements after 20 years away. While administering a food service program at a local ministry, Pamela met someone who introduced her to Vantage’s Senior Community Service Employment Program. Since her current position would end after the summer and she was having a hard time finding other employment, the program seemed like it could be a good fit for Pamela.  

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.

Once enrolled in SCSEP, Pamela’s Regional Workforce Development Director met with her to review her previous experience, transferrable skills, and employment goals. Based on this information, she began training in the resource center at Ohio Means Jobs.

Digital Inclusion Training

While training in the SCSEP program, Pamela also enrolled in Vantage’s Digital Inclusion Program.

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 the program, Pamela had limited experience with digital tools such as Excel and Word. While she was confident in her skillsets, her digital knowledge limited her confidence in applying for some positions.

“My level of comfort with technology was a barrier to breaking into a new role,” said Pamela. “I passed over several virtual opportunities that came my way because I didn’t feel that I was up to speed. I knew that growth was needed.”

Reaching goals through digital learning

Pamela dove into her Digital Inclusion training determined to gain the skills she needed for her next chapter. She worked on navigating various aspects of PowerPoint and Excel, how to set up Word documents, and using features in email applications and Google Docs.  

“It can be a struggle for a lot of people in our age category, depending on what your background is,” said Pamela. “I liked that my Digital Navigator Laura was so patient in laying down a foundation. These skills are so needed to be successful both on the job and in everyday life. For example, the courses helped me be able to create a will online without the need to hire an attorney.”

In the Digital Inclusion Program, each job seeker is paired with a Vantage staff member, or Digital Navigator, who works with them individually through modules. From start to finish, the Digital Navigator is there to offer support, guidance, and advice.

“Having a Digital Navigator contributed to my success,” said Pamela. “Through repetition and practice, she helped me learn and retain the information while increasing my level of comfort with digital devices.  I hope Vantage continues to seek people with the level of competence and compassion that I experienced in the program from staff members.”

Like many job seekers in the Digital Inclusion program, Pamela was surprised by the flexible scheduling options for her learning sessions and the high quality of her equipment. The one-on-one nature of the program allows job seekers to make their own schedules and move at their own pace.

Each job seeker receives a new laptop and an affordable, reliable hotspot internet connection. They also receive continuous licensing to the learning modules, so they can continue to view their training and expand their knowledge.

Encouraging others in her next chapter

Pamela’s experience in the Digital Inclusion program has proven to not only build her technical skills but also her confidence in today’s workforce. She now wants to share what she’s learned with others and encourage older job seekers to participate in similar programs.

Pamela urges that older adults must not be afraid to learn new skills and there is so much to offer, experience, and grow from. Her messages come from a wealth of generational wisdom passed down from her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.

“They all said, ‘Nothing beats a failure but a try.’ It’s the same idea as nothing ventured, nothing gained,” said Pamela “I feel that as a mature person, you have so much to offer. It’s never too late to build on your knowledge. Lifelong learning keeps you sharp, joyful, and passionate. The Digital Navigators at Vantage will help you navigate these waters, so don’t be afraid to try.”

Pamela has accepted a full-time remote position as a Training Navigator at Vantage Aging. Vantage is excited to welcome her to the team where she can use her growing skillset to help other older adults find employment.

“I think that I truly embody being a new stage for opportunity and development,” said Pamela. “Vantage has exceeded my expectations of how this program would help me and how much I would grow. It allowed me to be useful to my community and has made my return to my hometown more meaningful than I ever thought.”

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