One in every five jobless Americans are people over the age of 55. 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.
In October of 2019, Della Turner found herself out of work. Everything had changed since she last searched for employment, and companies that were hiring required skills that she did not learn in her line of work. She knew it was time to update her skills. The Mississippi Department of Employment Security referred Della Goodwill Industries of Mississippi (Ridgeland) WIN Job Center, where she enrolled in digital skills training.
Elton spent many years out of work before coming to Goodwill. He often performed heavy manual labor to make ends meet, but the cycle eventually became burdensome, so he sought help from the Senior Community Service and Employment Program (SCSEP) at Goodwill Industries of the Valleys in Roanoke, VA.
One such individual is Kevin, who lost his job during the pandemic. At the time, he lacked resources to repair his car and travel to interviews. For several weeks, he had looked for new employment, but he didn’t have the skills necessary to navigate the services for veterans in his area.
When Ceylin Brooks decided to leave the Air Force after serving for six years, she moved from the Hurlburt Field Air Force installation in Northwest Florida to Tampa. The transition to civilian life was a little difficult, especially when it came to looking for a job.
Mary Strickland’s difficulties with mental health began after high school. In 2007, she was a student at the local university working on a bachelor’s degree at the age of 18. Then, one day, she stopped going to class. Suddenly, she was too tired and worn out to even get dressed and drive. In 2010, she dropped out of school and, for the next five years, floundered. She had jobs in law offices and had been a pre-law major in college, but she was fired from each of them.
Everyone deserves the opportunity to experience the power of work. A disability, lack of education, poverty or criminal history should not stand in anyone’s way when seeking employment. But the reality is, many people in our communities face challenges to finding work as a result of their circumstances.
LaTara became a mother at age 15, her freshman year of high school. She was scared but she also knew she had to do whatever it took to care for her child. “I couldn’t worry about education. I had to provide,” said LaTara. She dropped out of school and went to work.
Alicia Murphy came to Goodwill seeking her GED to provide new opportunities for her family. A young mother of two children, Alicia had dropped out of high school when she was 17 and had held several jobs including warehouse and waitressing positions, but what she really wanted was financial stability. Working in a warehouse was draining her both mentally and physically— and she knew she needed to further her education in order to kick start her career. Alicia had the drive to succeed, but like many people lacking education and work experience, she felt lost. She strived for independence, financial stability, and her own place to live.
At the encouragement of her close friend, Guadalupe moved from New York to Charlotte to find better opportunities and an improved lifestyle for herself and her 15-year-old daughter. Little did she know the COVID-19 pandemic would cause stay-at-home orders and hiring freezes just as they arrived.
As Fahad looks back on his life, hindsight is 2020. “When I was younger, I was uneducated, so I made mistakes,” he recalls. “I never put a lot of thought towards the things that I did. I was making mistake after mistake without even realizing I was making them, and it came back to bite me.”