Vocational training for the elderly enjoys a high employment rate / Public press service

A program that helps low-income seniors find work could be boosted by an economy that favors employees.

The Easterseals-Goodwill Senior Community Services Employment Program helps people 55 and older re-enter the workforce. The company works in Idaho, Montana, Utah and some eastern Oregon counties.

Tina Johnson, assistant vice president of workforce development and behavioral health at Easterseals-Goodwill, lives in northern Idaho. Although it may be ironic, she said the high employment rate helps create job prospects for workers of all ages.

“It’s the employee who decides, needless to say,” Johnson said. “So there’s such a shortage that it’s really reversed from what it was years ago.”

Johnson said the need for more workers also gives people the opportunity to be trained on the job.

Program participants gain experience with a host agency – usually a nonprofit or government agency in their community.

Johnson added that employers are doing everything possible to make sure they can find the right people, sometimes covering some of the costs of upgrading new workers.

“More than anything, I mean, it really impacts their wallet,” Johnson said. “Because the training – like, even the tuition, which they had to pay out of pocket in the past – all of those costs are covered by the employer.”

Johnson said some people return to the workforce due to hardships, such as the death of a loved one, that may have left them with less money than they thought.

She added that others come back when they are bored in retirement. Either way, she says, they are an asset to local businesses.

“They have an incredible work ethic,” Johnson said. “So they think it’s great that they can just retire – and then they do and they realize that’s not what they want. They want to be in the workforce.”

She noted that many seniors in their program are interested in working face-to-face with people, and social service jobs are among the most popular.

Disclosure: Easterseals contributes to our fund for reports on disabilities, living wages/working families, mental health, seniors’ issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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