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More than 60 percent of the unemployed population in James City County is over 45 years old.
In the City of Williamsburg, workers over 45 make up 40 percent of those currently unemployed.
The Great Recession hit older workers particularly hard because at the time of the economic downturn they tended to be holding higher paying jobs that were targeted for cutbacks.
Recognizing the need for an event that addresses the unique needs of older workers struggling to get back into the workforce, the Peninsula Agency on Aging began to host an Older Workers Job Fair in 2009.
This year’s sixth annual edition of the job fair, which will take place this Thursday at the Historic Triangle Messmer Community Services Center, will also be open to people with disabilities of all ages for the first time ever.
According to a news release from PAA, older workers tend to possess “a solid work ethic, loyalty and strong customer relations skills.” This makes the uniquely valuable as employees.
“Older workers bring a wealth of experience and diverse backgrounds to the jobs they perform,” according to Diane Hartley, Director of Williamsburg Aging and Disability Research Center.
However, they are combating a number of myths that work against them as they are trying to re-enter the workforce.
“There’s a misperception that some of their technology skills are outdated. In reality, they tend to be committed to keeping those skills up,” Hartley said.
Older workers’ technological competency is reflected in the record number of technology-oriented businesses that are attending this year’s job fair.
“We’re seeing the types of employers who want to participate expanding. In the early years it was a lot of health care jobs, but now we have a much greater variety,” Hartley explained.
Though the range of employers present at the fair is growing, the number of job seekers has actually been shrinking as the economy has bounced back in recent years. Hartley estimates that at the height of the recession the job fair attracted around 300 workers, whereas more recently that number has been closer to 100. This year she is hoping to see the number go up again since they have opened up participation to people with disabilities of any age.
The Older Workers Job Fair aims to address both sides of the employment dynamic by offering resources for employers as well as would-be employees. This year the fair will kick off with an employers luncheon that will feature Commissioner Mary Ellen Hess of the Virginia Employment Commission as the keynote speaker.
Employers that may not be hiring right now are encouraged to attend the luncheon even if they don’t participate in the fair so they can learn about current employment trends and the value of hiring older workers.
“We like to think of it more as an ‘employment event’ rather than strictly a job fair, because we are offering something for the employers too,” said Hartley.
The luncheon will begin at 11 a.m. and requires pre-registration. The job fair itself will run from noon to 3 p.m. and is open to all workers 45 and over, and all workers with disabilities of any age. No registration is required and participants are encouraged to bring resumes and dress in business-appropriate attire. Employers can pre-register for the luncheon by calling 757-345-6277.
A complete list of participating employers is as follows:
- Newport News Public Schools
- Eastern State Hospital
- Colonial Behavioral Health
- Peninsula Agency on Aging
- AARP Foundation
- Guest Services, Inc.
- Home Instead
- Visiting Angels
- Comfort Keepers
- Dynamo Electric
- James City County
- Newport News Shipbuilding
- Williamsburg Landing
- IBEX Global in Hampton
- Best Buy