My Story: Tonya Alvarez

by Tammer Heard, National SCSEP Coach and Compliance Monitor 

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.  

Whether you are a community member, a caseworker, or a client, all who enter the SC Works Greenville center are greeted by the enthusiastic voice of Ms. Tonya Alvarez.  Since January 2021, Alvarez has helped to create a positive and memorable experience for SC Works’ visitors. Beyond connecting guests to appropriate staff, she often finds herself problem solving with clients. Given her previous experience as a law enforcement professional, Alvarez states that, “managing challenging incidents and problem solving with clients, is two of the many job duties [she] enjoys.”

A series of circumstances, including a hip injury and a change in financial status, forced Alvarez into a string of temporary jobs. Alvarez was looking for a way to garner new skills that would lead to consistent employment. A friend encouraged Alvarez to connect with Goodwill to help with resume writing and job search strategies. She quickly learned about the Senior Community Service and Employment Program (SCSEP) at Goodwill Industries of Upstate/Midlands South Carolina. From her time in SCSEP, Alvarez recalls SCSEP being more than resume writing and job search strategies, she referred to it as hope.

In SCSEP, participants can train with a variety of organizations for up to four years, while a Goodwill SCSEP Guide will help them to create an individualized career plan.  However, Alvarez found her employment-match at her first Host Agency. She gained professional confidence at SC Works. In her early days at SC Works, Alvarez managed various schedules, supported visitors, and organized confidential records. Through this assignment, Alvarez improved her digital skills, enhanced her administrative skills, and developed a positive rapport with staff, clients, and community members.

After a few months of paid community service and job training, Alvarez was offered permanent employment with SC Works. Her professionalism, empathic spirt and authoritative manner to direct visitors immediately resonated with the SC Works Greenville staff. With new confidence and skills, Alvarez offers this advice to other SCSEP participants, “at our age, this is the start of a journey, not the end.”

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.