Back to Work 50+ program assists ‘mature’ job seekers

“The job search of today is not the job search of the past.”

Lyndon Kidd, employability coach

Roger Forester, program coordinator for Back to Work 50+, talks in his Community Campus office about services the program offers.

Roger Forester, program coordinator for Back to Work 50+, talks in his Community Campus office about services the program offers.

 

By KATTA MAPES

Pima Community College’s Back to Work 50+ program has been recognized as one of the nation’s most successful for mature job seekers.

The free program, currently in the second round of a two-year grant from the AARP Foundation, offers resources, training and coaching for anyone over 50 who wants to work full time.

The program moved in February from East Campus to Community Campus, located at 401 N. Bonita Ave. Program coordinator Roger Forester works closely with two employability coaches, Lynden Kidd and Marilyn Osborn.

To enter the program, call the AARP Foundation at 855-850-2525 to request its job search guide, “7 Smart Strategies for 50+ Jobseekers,” and to register for a local job search workshop.

Kidd and Osborn offer the initial workshop in Tucson, using the guide as an overview to the PCC program.

“The job search of today is not the job search of the past,” Kidd said.

Challenges for job seekers ages 50 to 81 include getting through the online job application, plus competing with and working for people young enough to be their grandchild, Kidd said.

Another challenge is writing resumes modified to showcase knowledge, skills and abilities without revealing age by listing, for example, 35 years of work experience.

After the initial workshop, the coaches meet with participants in small groups to further identify specific goals and needs. Some participants need lots of hand holding through the job search process, while others just need help tweaking their approach to finding work.

Workshops offered by the two coaches provide job-hunting support with topics such as career planning, personal marketing, social media, interviewing and networking. Other workshops, such as Computer Basics, Google and Microsoft Word, focus on building technology skills.

A two-day Career Planning workshop provides a great place to start, Kidd said. Participants can explore goals and find ways to integrate previous skills with their plans for the future. It also helps to create a plan of action.

Program coaches also guide people to a wealth of resources at PCC and in the community. There are no program funds available for financing education and training, but Kidd and Osborn steer people to student financial aid and other sources.

More support comes via individual coaching. Kidd and Osborn divvy up the people they work with according to their particular skill set.

Participant Laura Hudson, who owns a printing business with her husband, finished the Certified Nursing Assistant program in February.

When Hudson decided to explore a healthcare career, PCC advisors sent her to the Back to Work 50+ program for assistance and guidance.

“I can’t give enough thanks to the advisors at PCC as well as the Back to Work 50+ coaches for working together to help me, and so many others like me, have the opportunity to be back in the workforce in such a meaningful way at this time of my life,” Hudson said.

Daniel Rich finished the program and now works at PCC’s Center for Training and Development as a Professional Medical Coding Specialist.

“I have nothing but good things to say about the Back to Work 50+ program,” he said. “Everyone has been so helpful and supportive, and they have been a great assistance in energizing my career change.”

Rich said the program provided assistance ranging from financial planning and computer training to financial assistance.

Kidd credits the success of the PCC program to the coordinator, Roger Forester. “This man is phenomenally resourceful,” she said.

Forester, on the other hand, maintains the program success is a joint effort from all involved. He especially highlighted the personal touch of the coaches as they find ways to help each individual.

“It’s a feel-good program to be part of for us,” he said.

The “us” that Forester refers to goes beyond him and the coaches. Each PCC campus has a 50+ advisor in the student services division who is specially trained to guide mature students and job seekers to the program and other related resources.

Forester has also nurtured and developed volunteers to cover aspects of the program that include outreach to minorities, women, veterans and the disabled; finding and setting up internships for participants, job placement and employer relations.

While entwining his fingers, Forester identified the program as a partnership on many levels, internal and external.

The internal partners are PCC administrators who provide ongoing program support and the 50+ campus advisors, plus the resources available at PCC in many departments.

External partners are Pima County One Stop, the Pima Council on Aging and all of the 75 registered local employers who have hired at least 70 program participants so far.

The employers have taken the time and have had the interest in learning how to accommodate and appreciate older workers, Forester said.

The AARP Foundation funds 14 other similar programs but the one at PCC ranks at the top in the nation in terms of success rates, Forester said.

He has submitted metrics to the Foundation that verify the program is above 100 percent of its target goal in participation and completion, as required for the grant.

For example, 131 people received training in 2014-2015, essentially 187 percent of the target goal.

In both 2014 and 2015, the PCC program was the only one to host a job fair for 50+ workers.  The last fair had 60 vendors with 800 job seekers attending. At this point, there are no plans for a 2016 job fair.

For more information about the Back to Work 50+ program, call Roger Forester at 206-6335.

Daniel Rich works in Pima Community College’s Center for Training and Development after completing the Back to Work 50+ program.

Daniel Rich works in Pima Community College’s Center for Training and Development after completing the Back to Work 50+ program.

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