Never Give Up Reaching Your Goals: Anita’s Story

Anita is a lifelong learner and she is always looking for ways to continue her professional education. She has carried these skills with her in positions that help others and strengthen her community.

While Anita has faced challenges in her professional and personal life, she always finds a way to continue, learn a new skill, and remain a positive light for everyone who crosses her path. Here is how she got involved in Vantage’s Senior Community Service Employment Program and the Digital Inclusion Program, which led her to find a new opportunity that she loves.

Anita’s experience in social work

Anita has a lot of professional experience in the social work field. Her last position was with Warren County Community Services where she was a family service worker. She was also a coordinator for the Benefit Bank and a Kinship Navigator for all of Warren County.

“These positions prepared me to deal with many different personalities and cultures, which you need when you work with the public,” said Anita.

Anita holds degrees in business and social work. She then went on to pursue a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership so that she could better understand the educational system.

Facing health challenges

Anita was laid off from her job in January 2011. She saw it as an opportunity to take a much-needed break from the workforce but soon faced another challenge. In July 2011, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through five-plus years of chemotherapy and radiation treatments and over 25 surgeries.

“At that time, I felt like I was just done – stick a fork me, I’m done,” said Anita. “My mother kept telling me, ‘You’ll be able to work again’.”

With the help of her daughter, who was caring for both Anita and her mother at the time, Anita was able to get well. Anita said that her daughter was the driving force to keep her going.

“They say it takes a village. I had a one-person village, and it was my daughter who stayed with me,” said Anita. “I’m really grateful for that because a lot of people don’t have that kind of support.”

Anita completed her master’s degree while going through chemotherapy. When her health improved, she knew she needed to update her workplace skills in order to obtain employment, and she knew those skills wouldn’t come from an academic setting. She needed hands-on training to stay competitive in the modern workplace.

“I knew I wasn’t going to go to a traditional school to bring my skills up to date,” said Anita. “I overheard someone talking about Vantage Aging’s Senior Community Employment Program, applied, and was selected.”

Enrolling in Vantage’s SCSEP 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.

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.

Anita’s on-the-job training began as a secretary for the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) office in Middletown, Ohio. She later trained as a clerical assistant and social service worker for Central Connections in Middletown and as a receptionist for Butler County Veterans Service Commission. These experiences made her want to pursue clerical work.

Anita’s last training assignment was at OhioMeansJobs of Butler County in Fairfield, Ohio where she was able to take advantage of many clerical skill development opportunities. She also gained experience helping people create resumes and search for jobs. She also helped put on a job fair for Fairfield High School students and would like to continue to grow opportunities for the Middletown school system.

A leap of faith with digital learning

While training as a SCSEP job seeker, Anita was invited to participate 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. By having these skill sets as a foundation, employers can more easily train candidates on the specific digital tools they use in their businesses.

Like many Digital Inclusion learners, Anita was both excited and nervous to grow her digital skillset. She liked that the format of the program allowed her to learn at her own pace and took a one-on-one approach with a Digital Navigator.

“I love to learn, but I did not want to go back to a traditional school setting,” said Anita. “But then I realized ‘training’ is just a term people use when they are going to help you. Vantage’s Digital Inclusion program is a win-win situation where everyone is helping each other.”

Anita worked through her assignments and enjoyed the opportunity to earn industry-recognized certifications that she could add to her resume. Throughout the learning process, she continued to surprise herself.

“I thought I knew a whole lot, but I learned something new with every segment,” said Anita. “Everything I’ve learned is going to make starting my new position even greater. There’s no doubt the skills that I’ve learned in Vantage’s Digital Inclusion program are going to help me gain new opportunities.”

Experiencing ageism

Access to digital learning and skills can be a barrier to employment for older job seekers. Another challenge older job seekers face is ageism. Age discrimination not only prevents qualified candidates from getting gainful employment but also causes companies to miss out on talent that will grow their businesses.

Anita has experienced ageism in the workforce and agrees that it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.

“Ageism is very real, but very hard to prove sometimes,” said Anita. “Older job seekers need to emphasize their strongest aspects, especially when it comes to layering your patience and experience with new training.”

Access to digital tools

Before the Digital Inclusion program, Anita only had access to a very old desktop computer. It did not have a robust security and antivirus system and she could only use it in one spot in her home. The outdated programs did not provide her with the skills she needed for today’s workforce.

Access to the laptop and hotspot through the Digital Inclusion program gave Anita reliable, safe access to modern, digital tools. She now would consider remote work because of her training and new digital devices.

Working with a Digital Navigator

Each Digital Inclusion learner works one-on-one with a Digital Navigator to improve their skills. Vantage’s team of Digital Navigators works with learners to improve their digital skills and confidence using digital devices.

“With my background in social work, I can pick up on sincereness and when a person wants you to succeed,” said Anita. “My Digital Navigator, Laura, displayed that. All her comments were positive. It means a lot to me that she went above and beyond every day to make sure I’d succeed.”

New opportunities through digital learning

Anita is using all the education, experience, and Digital Inclusion training she has gained to start a new chapter in her career. She has accepted a position as an in-house, full-time substitute school district teacher.

“I’m ready for this next chapter,” said Anita. “The computer classes are a blessing and came at the perfect time. The most important part of my new job is being within my community and able to give back. And it’s exciting to end my working career at my alma mater.”

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