by Beth Hannon-Penny, Older Worker Services Program Director, Goodwill Industries International
This week we celebrate Older Americans Month and recognize the contributions older workers (age 55 and up) make both inside and outside the workforce. At a time when employers need to build resilience, older workers can play a critical role. Older workers bring experience, reliability and perspective to every workplace setting.
If you stop by the patient waiting area at Indiana University Methodist Hospital at 4:30 am, you might be greeted by the calming voice of Ms. Sharrie Nix. Since late 2020, Sharrie has been helping patients check-in and prepare for surgery. She also assists with care coordination by connecting family members and doctors following each procedure. Sharrie is no stranger to early mornings or nervous patients given that she has been in the healthcare industry for more than 30 years.
A series of circumstances, including the loss of her husband and a change in financial circumstances, led Sharrie to move to Indiana in 2016 to be closer to family and friends. Sharrie was looking for a way to reengage her career in healthcare, but knew she wanted a training opportunity that would allow her to reskill.
A close friend of Sharrie had a daughter who encouraged Sharrie to connect with Goodwill. She heard about the Senior Community Service and Employment Program (SCSEP) at Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana (Indianapolis), where she enrolled and created an individualized career plan with a Goodwill SCSEP Guide.
In SCSEP, training participants can train with a variety of organizations for up to four years. Over time, Sharrie completed training at Goodwill and a government housing project. Sharrie gained confidence in her work with various job seekers and enjoyed helping housing tenants who had complex needs in addition to housing. She overcame her initial reluctance to increase her digital skills, building new administrative skills with each new training site.
In early 2020, the pandemic brought Sharrie’s training to a screeching halt for several months. She was uncertain of her next step and welcomed the call from Goodwill to know that she had been given an extension to pursue training in a healthcare setting.
Sharrie worked with her guide Aileen who helped her start a new training placement with Indiana University Methodist Hospital. Sharrie helped lead guest relations in the surgery waiting room by communicating with individuals before, during and after scheduled operations. Her kindness, patience and attention to detail with patients immediately resonated with hospital staff.
Through this assignment, Sharrie improved her computer skills and developed a rapport with the attending staff, medical team and patients. After a few months of paid community service and job training, Sharrie was offered permanent employment with Indiana University Methodist Hospital as a Guest Relations Specialist. Just four months later, Sharrie received a pay increase, demonstrating her growth and overall impact.
If you are an older worker seeking help with training or paid work experience, contact your local SCSEP representative to see if you qualify. Find a SCSEP location near you to see if you qualify.
Anyone looking to learn more about Goodwill job training programs or career search assistance can also contact their local Goodwill.