Meet Joni: Digital Inclusion Graduate

Joni is a graduate of Vantage Aging’s Senior Community Service Employment Program. 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. 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.

While participating in SCSEP, Joni was selected to grow her digital skills in Vantage’s Digital Inclusion program. The initiative aims to improve 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.

Since graduating from Vantage’s SCSEP and Digital Inclusion program, Joni has successfully found employment at All People’s Fresh Market in Columbus, Ohio.

Meet Joni

Q: Tell us something about yourself.

A: I live in Columbus, Ohio, and I have 21 grandchildren. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, journaling, and scrap booking.

Q: What did you do before Vantage’s SCSEP program?

A: I was a preschool teacher for 29 years. I stayed in positions for long periods and worked at three schools during that time. Because of the pandemic, I had to stop teaching.

Q: What were some challenges you faced when looking for work?

A: I decided that I did not want to teach preschool anymore, but had no experience working with computers. I was also taking care of my mother during this time.

Q: What made you decide to apply for SCSEP?

A: I was looking for employment opportunities for seniors. Vantage Aging caught my eye because it offered hands-on training. There were many diverse opportunities to fit all different interests.

Q: Where were you assigned for your hands-on training?

A: I started SCSEP in 2020. I trained at All People’s Fresh Market, which is a food pantry where people could get fresh produce at no cost. My role included greeting clients, enrolling them in the program, and creating boxes for drive through distribution.

Q: How did you feel about starting the Digital Inclusion program?

A: Before the program, I didn’t know how to do anything on the computer. I was nervous, but excited to learn new skills. It was all very new to me, but so well worth it.

Q: How has Digital Inclusion helped your job search?

A: I went from knowing nothing about technology and not having access to a computer to being competent with skills I need for my career. My new skillset has allowed me to find employment and help others in my role.

Q: How has Digital Inclusion helped you in other ways.

A: It has helped me stay connected with family members and build my confidence.

Q: How has the equipment helped you?

A: The laptop provided by Vantage’s Digital Inclusion program has been essential to my learning and growth. I was able to take English and Math courses at Columbus State College. Having access to learning modules after graduating is the best. You learn something new every day.

Q: Did you like having a one-on-one navigator?

A: The structure of the program was great. It was like I met a new friend. The Digital Navigator helped me use the skills I was learning. I would not have done as well in a group setting. It would have been a lot because everyone doesn’t learn the same way at the same pace.

Q: What are you doing now?

A: My training site, All People’s Fresh Market, approached me with an employment opportunity as a Market Associate. Part of the job is inputting information into the computer. With the skills I gained through Vantage’s program, I became confident and wasn’t afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. I now train others on how to put their information into the laptop.

Q: What are your goals?

A: I want to be able to help others with my new skills. I would like to continue learning and take more writing courses. I hope to one day publish a children’s book.

Q: What would you say to others about the program?

A: Broaden your horizon. If you stop being afraid to try, you will be amazed at what you can do. I think people fear change, but you have to change in order to do big things.

Q: What would you say to the Department of Labor and Ohio Department of Aging about the importance of the program?

A: There are so many people out there who can benefit from the program. You never know where this opportunity can lead them with a little help and resources. It gets people back to working and feeling good about themselves.

Interested in participating in Vantage’s SCSEP program to receive paid, hands-on training? Apply today in 38 Ohio counties.

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