Stimulus Jobs: Re-training for Seniors

Seniors in search of second careers are finding relief and new opportunities, especially those willing to learn new job skills.

1.3 million Americans aged 55 to 64 were unemployed in February 2009, according to figures from the Washington, D.C. -based Urban Institute. Another 433,000 aged 65 and older were actively looking for work in the same period.

“People on Social Security thought that they would have enough to retire on, but it’s just not enough,” says Valerie LaFontsee, employment and training assistant at the Yuba County, Calif., office of Experience Works, a non-profit that helps low-income seniors find work in their communities.

The good news is that help is available: Congress, via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is allocating $118 million to assist older careerists through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Senior Community Service Program.

What Seniors Can Do
Those in need of additional income are now learning skills that will enable them to continue to earn. Folks looking for work, such as 59-year-old Athena Robinson, a former custodial worker who is now enrolled in the program through Experience Works, earn $8 an hour as they learn how to use a computer. Once trained, she and the other program members will be eligible for positions in health care, education and environmental services including:

  • Medicaid clerical worker,
  • Library aide,
  • Senior employment assistant,
  • Senior citizen program aide and
  • Legal assistant.

Robinson says she would like to work in retail when her stint in the seven-month program is over. Others from the Yuba County office have found part-time, minimum wage work for the National Forest Service.

Who is Eligible
Participation in the job re-training will be limited to individuals 55 years and older whose incomes are no more than 25% over the federal poverty level. Preference will be given to veterans, their spouses, minorities and people over the age of 60, according to information on the Department of Labor’s web site.

Where to Start
Recovery Act funding will be allotted to organizations such as Easter Seals, Goodwill Industries and the AARP as well as to government departments for aging across the country.

In the meantime, if you’re a senior looking for work and possible career retraining, start by contacting your local One-Stop Career Center at 877-872-5627. You can also contact the local office of a national grantee such as AARP.

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