Celebrate Older Workers

By Laura Walling, GII senior director of government affairs, advocacy & legislative affairs

Each year during the last full week in September, the US Department of Labor (DOL) and the workforce development community celebrates older workers by marketing their value and contribution to the workforce in the past, present and future. National Employ Older Workers Week (NEOWW) is about acknowledging and promoting the value of older workers across our nation. NEOWW aims to increase awareness of older workers and develop innovative strategies to tap into solutions.

The week also showcases DOL’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), an on-the-job training and employment program designed to help those age 55 and older update their jobs skills, build work experience and confidence, and continue to have economic security and well-being. This year’s NEOWW theme perfectly matches the message we deliver to employers in our role as national SCSEP providers. Local Goodwill® organizations help seniors find work, develop new skills and talents, and build their financial security through SCSEP.

The national organizations who specialize in helping unemployed older adults secure employment through SCSEP, including Goodwill Industries International, want to use NEOWW to honor the 6,600 small and large businesses from across the country who hired a SCSEP participant during the last program year. As such, the grantees send a letter to Congress this week educating lawmakers of the value of this important program.

Employers are increasingly turning to older Americans to help fill staffing needs, especially in a strong economy. Our organizations are enormously proud of our work within SCSEP to help businesses find qualified older workers who are job-ready, have recent training experiences, and who are dependable and eager to return to the workforce. Last year, local Goodwill organizations collectively provided job-training and employment services to more than 200,000 older workers – age 55 and over. Seventeen local Goodwill organizations throughout New Mexico, Washington, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, South Carolina, Missouri, Kentucky and Virginia are SCSEP subgrantees for Goodwill Industries International, providing skills-training to 3,600 older job seekers annually.

Older adults come to SCSEP with two to three significant employment challenges, such as having a disability, being homeless, or living in rural America or other area with high unemployment rates and low employment prospects.

Despite their employment barriers, all SCSEP participants train in their communities part-time where they develop new marketable skills and workplace experiences. All older adults improve their economic self-sufficiency through the SCSEP community training, many of whom transition into unsubsidized jobs in their community. SCSEP has been a valuable employment tool for large and small public and private employers, including restaurants, hospitals, retail outlets, nonprofits, banks and transportation companies.

The SCSEP experience can lead to permanent employment, like Lucien who was hired by Goodwill Industries of Kentucky in one of its retail stores. Lucien had suffered a stroke and lost his job in construction. He had to relearn to talk and walk, eventually enrolling in SCSEP. With a strong work ethic and winning personality, Lucien was a good fit with the retail store where he received training and was eventually hired. In Goodwill Industries of Michiana (South Bend, IN), Tim enrolled in SCSEP and was placed in training at the local American Job Center. He noticed a job at a local Home Depot Center that interested him. South Bend Goodwill staff encouraged him to apply for the job and he was soon hired. He shared that he has an opportunity to participate in the management training program.

Join us in appreciating older workers like Lucien and Tim nationwide who are breaking through barriers into a welcoming workforce and the employers who hire them.