Employment Boot Camp Readies Older Adults for Workforce
Lamar Jackson greets Center on Halsted patrons, visitors, and staff with a kind hello and warm smile as they ascend to the second floor reception desk. Lamar not only welcomes individuals to Center on Halsted, but directs them to various programs and services, troubleshooting when necessary. Lamar is one of nine older adults currently employed at Center on Halsted through the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), a federally funded program established through the Older Americans Act.
James Davies, another participant, has been involved with the program for almost three years. “I was looking for work and was directed to enroll in the Center’s job readiness program for older adults,” he remembers. The program for LGBT older adults (40+) who need or want to return to the work place includes computer classes, résumé and interviewing workshops, and information about job opportunities.
“I had been out of the work place for 3 years and got to the point where I was wondering why my résumé wasn’t getting attention from employers,” James said. “Upon enrolling, I had the rude awakening that the job market had changed significantly since I last applied for positions. Not only was my résumé out of date, but I needed to adapt to the new learning curve of computer technology.”
Britta Larson, Center on Halsted Director of Senior Services, coordinates the SCSEP program. “I like to think of these programs and as a bridge,” she says, “a bridge to employment. After participants complete job readiness training, we see where individual passions, interests, and skills lie and try to place the adults appropriately. When these match the needs of Center on Halsted, it’s a win-win all around, and we’re able to hire some through the SCSEP program!”
SCSEP employees are embedded in almost all departments throughout the organization, from Behavioral Health and Finance, to Operations, Community & Cultural programs, and HIV/AIDS & STD Services. “These employees are an integral asset to our organization and we couldn’t do our work without them,” Britta says. “What’s more, we’re able to act as a resource and provide experience while participants actively search for employment. For some, it’s just important to reengage a workweek routine.”
In addition, the program combats much of the discrimination older adults experience in the workplace and in hiring practices. “Many employers are hesitant to hire older applicants.” Britta adds. “Yet here at Center on Halsted, we celebrate the diversity of our employees and SCSEP is integral to that. We have a wide breadth of experiences, ages, and backgrounds in the program and they contribute to the fabric of the organization as a whole.”
How has James utilized the program? “I’m loving it,” he exclaimed. “I’ve worked across the Reception, Finance, and Behavioral Health departments, picking up valuable skills. What’s more is I also live in Town Hall Apartments next door. I feel truly welcomed into a broader community as I age.”