I belong to the group of people 50 and older who thought our job seniority was assurance that we'd work until retirement age.
Now, though, as we watch co-workers in our age bracket pack up personal belongings and leave a workplace after decades of service, we no longer believe that.
Even more unsettling is that older workers aren't always the first to land another job.
So what can displaced older workers, undereducated older workers or financially strapped older job seekers do to improve their chances of finding viable employment?
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Two programs in the Bluegrass hope to answer those questions. One is geared to low-income job seekers 50 and older, and the other is open to any older job seeker who is computer-savvy.
"Making Age an Asset in Your Job Search" is a six-week online course offered through a partnership with AARP and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System for those who are comfortable working with computers. The course will help quell some of the uncertainties of where to turn next.
Mary Maggard, an AARP volunteer who will conduct an orientation for the course, said it will help those who are on the verge of retirement and need to hone skills for a new career; for those who have been retired but want to re-enter the job market in another field, and for those who have been laid off and need to find a job.
Often, Maggard said, older applicants are told they are overqualified for some positions because of their experience. "We tell them how to address that," she said. "Do you want hamburger or steak at the same price?"
The course, given in two lessons each week, helps participants in their job searches. They learn to write and build résumés, size up the job market, define job skills, prepare for interviews, and negotiate salary and benefits packages.
The last free orientation for the course will be at noon Monday in room N-110, North Building of Bluegrass Community & Technical College, Leestown campus 164 Opportunity Way. Go to www.ed2go.com/workafter50 for more information, and call 1-877-926-8300 to register for the orientation.
The course costs $42 until the end of the year. In January, the cost increases to $95. Scholarships are available by contacting Patrice Blanchard, AARP's associate state director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those less familiar with technology, the Senior Community Service Employment Program might be the answer.
SCSEP, an Urban League of Lexington-Fayette County program since 1987, is geared toward low-income people 55 and older who might need more help. It provides training and part-time employment for older workers, with preference given to the disabled, veterans and the wives of veterans, those 75 and older, and women and minorities.
Gladys Hayes-Moore, program director, said she has noticed an increase in the number of women seeking help, especially homeless women, in the 16 counties that SCSEP serves.
"A lot of these women got jobs in the '60s and '70s, when they weren't as strict about (workers) having a high school diploma or GED," she said. "They were assembly-line workers."
Now, she said, many of them are getting their GEDs through SCSEP and earning a stipend while being trained.
Others are placed with non-profits or government agencies, where they receive on-the-job training, 20 hours a week, at minimum wage, until they are prepared to secure their own employment.
Hayes-Moore said that once they are accepted into the program, which has 116 slots funded by the Department of Labor and 20 provided by stimulus money, the wait might be four to six weeks.
Some, she said, are in school, earning certificates in fields such as medical coding. Others are learning computer skills to apply for jobs online.
Each applicant must undergo a physical, paid for by SCSEP, she said.
"You have to have income to have housing, and you can't get food stamps without an address," Hayes-Moore said. "We will help them find a job."
For more information about SCSEP, call (859) 277-3979, visit the office in the Senior Citizens Center, 1530 Nicholasville Road, or e-mail email@example.com.
Neither of the programs will make losing a job less traumatic for older workers, but they do provide the proverbial light.