Need for Assistance for America’s Older Workers Reaches Critical Levels

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National Employ Older Workers Week, Sept. 19-25, carries special significance this year as older workers in the United States face historical challenges in today’s workplace, according to workforce experts.

National Employ Older Workers Week, Sept. 19-25, carries special significance this year as older workers in the United States face historical challenges in today’s workplace, according to workforce experts.

“Today’s reality is that we have record numbers of older people in the workforce, many on the sidelines who can’t find work, and a sizable group who have given up on finding employment all together,” said Billy Wooten, executive director of program operations for Experience Works, the nation’s largest nonprofit provider of community service, training and employment opportunities for older workers.

National Employ Older Workers Week, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, recognizes the great contributions that workers age 55 and older provide to employers. These benefits include experience, knowledge and dependability.

The economic downturn has been particularly difficult on older workers. In August 2010, the average duration of unemployment for people age 55 and older was 38.2 weeks, a 33 percent increase from August 2009. During this same time, the number of discouraged workers in this age group increased 73 percent. Discouraged workers are people who have stopped looking for work because they believe employment opportunities are not available.

“We’ve seen a record number of older workers calling us or visiting our website for assistance and we don’t foresee that trend changing any time soon,” said Wooten. According to Wooten, the current need outpaces the available resources for unemployed older workers.

Through the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), Experience Works provided services to 31,142 older workers in 30 states and Puerto Rico during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2010.

SCSEP participants, who must meet low-income and employment qualifications, receive self assessments, skills training, assistance with the job search process and placement in an appropriate training assignment with a local community service agency. Participants earn the minimum wage while acquiring the skills and tools they need to transition from community service assignments to employment with a local employer. In fiscal 2009-2010, Experience Works SCSEP participants across the country provided 14,280,310 hours of community service to local agencies.

For more information about Experience Works or to see if you qualify for the Senior Community Service Employment Program, log on to http://www.experienceworks.org or call 866.976.5939. Experience Works, formerly known as Green Thumb, serves the needs of older workers in 30 states and Puerto Rico.

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Debbie Hilt