The Pandemic has changed a lot about our day-to-day lives. We have settled into our “new normal” in many different ways, and our paces have slowed in order to protect ourselves and others.
As we wait for the treat of the virus to lift, many individuals are working hard to do what they can for the community and themselves. VANTAGE Aging has continued to serve clients with adjusted processes. And on the same token, participants in VANTAGE’s Senior Community Service Employment Program have continued their job training from home.
VANTAGE’s Senior Community Service Employment Program, or SCSEP, provides paid job training to older Ohioans. Participants in the program normally receive about 20 hours of paid training per week at a community-based organization and earn industry-recognized certifications in a field of their choice. The goal is to help older adults re-enter the workforce and gain financial independence.
Throughout the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, participants are continuing to train from home. By working on their professional skills at home now, they can continue their progress and be more prepared once we can all return to work.
We had the chance to talk to Denise Tsibouris, who is currently participating in the Senior Community Service Employment Program. She shared some of her experiences, challenges, and successes as an older job seeker. Here is what she had to say.
Denise heard about SCSEP through a friend and started with an orientation in early January. She had not been working for a while and was struggling to re-enter the workforce.
Previously, Denise was working in the restaurant business and encountered ageism. Ageism, or age discrimination, is prejudice on the basis of someone’s age. Ageism in the workplace can come in many different forms.
For example, someone might experience age discrimination when an employer refuses to hire them because of their age. Or, an older employee might be fired or treated differently than their co-workers because of their age.
Denise enrolled in SCSEP to launch a new career. She wants to pursue entrepreneurship and provide financial self-sufficiency for herself, children, and grandchildren and is interested in working with the community.
After Denise reported to her assigned SCSEP training site for three weeks, the stay at home order was initiated by Governor DeWine. At this time, VANTAGE created a plan to facilitate at-home training for participants in the program.
“I am feeling more secure being able to train from home,” said Denise. “Without the program, I would not have an income. I’m looking forward to training at home, and I’m excited to re-enter the workforce.”
Skill-building for the future
Denise, and others in the program, are working on a wide range of skill-based learning activities. Each participant talks with a VANTAGE Aging professional and develops a plan to achieve their career goals. Their plan includes a “career pathway”, which aligns skill training with an industry or career goal.
Denise is interested in developing skills in corporate training, the legal profession, and nonprofit management. Her ultimate goal is to run a nonprofit and help others in her community through ministry.
“Financial stability will come by doing what I love,” said Denise. She also noted that she is working on deeper levels of computer technology skills and has become interested in writing code and business management.
Challenges in the workforce
With so many businesses closed right now, a number of people are out of work and struggling to secure a steady paycheck. Needless to say, many job seekers are facing unique challenges during these uncertain times.
Once we make it to the other side of the Pandemic, businesses will re-open and begin operating again. They will hire employees and opportunities will open up.
But, some challenges for job seekers were present long before the Pandemic. Denise said that the biggest challenge she faces as an older adult seeking employment is ageism. While she understands that there is a stigma towards older workers, hiring teams must look beyond stereotypes and see the value in this population.
“There’s a place for young and older individuals in the workforce,” said Denise. “Older individuals have all of this education and experience. Given a chance to share this with younger generations, it is a win-win situation. They sharpen you and you sharpen them.”
Pushing forward through the Pandemic
Participants who are training in the SCSEP program are not slowing down, despite the challenges of COVID-19. When asked what Denise’s motivation is that pushes her towards her goals, her answer was simple and confident: her age.
“I stopped working purposely to take care of my children,” said Denise. “A dream I’ve always had was that I wanted to work for a nonprofit.”
She continued to speak about how VANTAGE has helped to accelerate her career path. “VANTAGE made me believe that I can achieve what I want. I don’t have to put goals off because of my age. I want financial stability and something to pass on to my children. I’d rather go for it than sit on the sideline and watch it go by. VANTAGE Aging woke up the dream within me.”
Training from home through the SCSEP program helps individuals continue their progress and focus on life after COVID-19. Denise mentioned that one of the benefits of training at home is that it covers a multitude of topics.
“You have to put your goals down and that makes them real,” said Denise. “You can follow your progress, which has helped me with my attitude and focus. If we focus on developing skills now, once an opportunity comes we will be better prepared to take advantage of it. We’re not staying at home doing nothing.”
Interested in enrolling in the Senior Community Service Employment Program? Learn more about how to get the training you need for the job you want. Participants must be 55 years or older, live in one of the 38 Ohio counties we serve, be currently looking for employment, and meet income guidelines.
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