Senior citizens hone job-hunting skills


At an age when many people are retired or finishing their careers, the senior citizens who meet each week at Florence Bain Senior Center's Job Club are looking for work.

Members get together to learn about employment opportunities, work on their interviewing skills and listen to speakers who give them insight on how to turn their practical experience into paying careers.

"They work on their skills and share with each other," said Charlotte LeFevre, one of three social work students who lead the weekly support group meetings at the Columbia senior center.

L "All have the same fears, the same concerns, the same joys."

Aimed at people 50 and older, the Job Club is administered by the county's Office on Aging, in cooperation with the county's Department of Employment and Training.

Additional training and support come from Careerscope, a nonprofit Columbia job-counseling program, and Green Thumb, a federal program that provides paid on-the-job training for senior citizens.

Since the Job Club began in November, about 13 senior citizens have taken part in the support group, and five have found jobs.

"These are people who have a life's worth of experience," said Barbara Harris, supervisor of client services at the Office on Aging.

"It's a cooperative arrangement in which we take different components which work together to help place seniors in employment."

The agencies that work with the Job Club members give more than advice, she said; they sometimes help work out practical problems. That might mean arranging transportation to make it possible for a senior citizen to take a particular job, for example.

The weekly Job Club support group meetings are a place where senior citizens can discuss what they learn in job training and talk about their experiences in looking for jobs.

In addition, members are encouraged to complete such home assignments as finding job leads or practicing the "two-minute-commercial," an exercise in selling themselves to a potential employer.

They are helped by the three social work students, Ms. LeFevre and Kim Goldfarb from the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland at Baltimore, and Hannah Kim from the Social Work Department at the University of Maryland Baltimore Campus.

One recent club meeting included six women, most of them in their 60s, who were attending for the first time and were hoping to reinforce what they had learned in two weeks of training by Careerscope.

Betty Thorn, a 62-year-old Ellicott City resident, was laid off last June after working for 11 years as a parts assembler.

She had assumed that "mechanical work" was her only option. But after learning about an opening for a cook in a day care center, she applied for and got the job.

"My two weeks training at Careerscope is probably the reason I did it," said Mrs. Thorn, who takes care of her 91-year-old father.

The training showed her that her experience as a cafeteria cook several years ago could be included on a resume.

L Though the job is part-time, Mrs. Thorn is happy to have it.

"I have no health insurance, and I'm not old enough to have Medicare. . . . But it's a start; it's better than nothing," she said.

Gloria Jennings, 65, was hoping to become the sixth person from the group to find employment.

After her two weeks of Career scope training, she has assessed her skills, completed a resume and is hoping for a job as a receptionist or as a caretaker for elderly people.

"The Job Club has pulled me up, and they are keeping me going," said the Columbia resident.

Further information about the Job Club is available by callin Clemma Younger at (301) 596-6074.

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