Many older adults must step out of the workforce for a number of reasons. But when it’s time to step back in, it doesn’t mean that their options must be limited. By building new skills on their experiences, they can open new doors on their career path.
This month, we’re highlighting Vantage’s Digital Inclusion learner Shelle Peterson. Shelle moved from Washington State to Akron four years ago and found finding employment difficult. Although she earned a college degree, most of her work experience was in labor settings.
Since arriving in Akron, Shelle has participated in Vantage’s SCSEP job training program, completed an additional Digital Inclusion program, and found unsubsidized employment.
Enrolling in Job Training for Older Adults
Shelle wanted a change of pace and to use a different skill set in her new role. She found Vantage’s Senior Community Service Employment Program as a steppingstone to her new career goals.
Funded by the Department of Labor and Ohio Department of Aging, SCSEP 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.
“I was glad I applied,” said Shelle. “I could find work as a cashier all day long, but I wanted to change my direction. It was hard to get a job in accounting even though I’d taken college classes.”
Vantage gave Shelle the opportunity to gain experience in her perspective field. She worked with the nonprofit’s accounting and records departments to diversify her skills. She participated in hands-on trained along her career pathway that included entering accounts payable and learning fund accounting.
Shelle has since found employment in a role that includes filing and organizing. The experience she’s gained with on-the-job training has also helped build the confidence she needed to re-enter the workforce.
Enhancing her Skills with Digital Inclusion
In partnership with the Ohio Department of Aging, Vantage’s 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.
Digital training modules provide a basic skill set that helps older job seekers be more competitive in today’s market. Some topics learners work on include Microsoft Office, Google Docs, navigating the internet, email etiquette, database management, career searching, and social media. By having these skillsets available, employers can more easily train candidates on the specific digital tools they use at their businesses.
A Vantage staff member asked Shelle if she would be interested in participating in SCSEP’s Digital Inclusion program, where she replied: “Yes, definitely! I was happy and excited to get started.”
In the Digital Inclusion program, Shelle gained a foundation to build on her digital skills. She worked on lessons in Windows, Word, email, Google Docs, Excel, PowerPoint, and basic computer skills. She was the first learner to complete all the modules, including the intermediate courses.
“There’s stuff that you think that you know until you work through the courses,” said Shelle. “Now, if I don’t get something, I’m able to look up a solution on Google and it makes things easier.”
Through learning with the Digital Inclusion program, Shelle can troubleshoot and find answers to problems on her own. In her new position, she is the go-to person when it comes to technology. She helps others learn digital skills and performs many of her duties using digital devices.
The Importance of One-On-One Learning
The format of the Digital Inclusion program and having a digital navigator helped Shelle succeed.
“It was different than sitting in a classroom,” said Shelle. “You do the lessons online on your own time. It was easy to be able to talk with the digital navigator from my home.”
Before the Digital Inclusion program, Shelle had moderate experience with computers. She learned most of her skills during college in the late nineties where she worked in customer service and billing. She went back to school in 2017 to study accounting.
While she was comfortable with the idea of using digital devices, her skilled needed to be updated. The one-on-one training with her digital navigator helped her define her skills and interests and build on them to better reach her goals.
“Every module had something new for me to learn.” Said Shelle. “I had tried to learn Google Docs in the past, but I was not getting it. With the Digital Inclusion program, it became so simple. Plus, it’s free and accessible.”
Moving Forward Towards New Pathways
Shelle enjoys her current job but has goals to grow and continue learning. She eventually wants to take everything she’s learned and apply it to an accounting role. SCSEP and the Digital Inclusion program were stepping stones to get Shelle where she wants to be.
“I’m getting older, but I think that I deserve a position that doesn’t feel like work, with good wages and benefits,” said Shelle. “I’m not ready to just sit around.”
Shelle encourages other older job seekers to continue learning and embrace today’s technology. She wants her peers to know that they are capable, and the results of taking the steps to grow their digital skills can be very rewarding. In Shelle’s case, it was finding a job and gaining the confidence to explore new skills.
“Don’t be scared to try,” said Shelle. “Vantage’s Digital Inclusion team makes it so easy and fun. You’ll learn a lot and it will help you in many aspects of life.”
At Vantage, we are proud of the work Shelle and other Digital Inclusion learners have put into improving their skills. We continue to support each person participating in the SCSEP program at their Digital Inclusion graduation and beyond. Participants can access tools and resources once they’ve completed the program, and new modules are added regularly.