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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Virginia Seniors Get Help with Job Training, Confidence Building

This summer’s data from AARP found 37.2 million people age 55 and older were employed, a slight increase from May. Unemployment for the same group declined to 1 million in the same time period. (Adobe Stock)

RICHMOND — A Virginia program is helping older workers launch their “second act” in the workforce.

The Northern Virginia Senior Community Services Employment Program, run from Fairfax County, aims to provide people over 55 with the training they need for positions like working at senior centers and office administrators.

A 2022 statewide community needs assessment found having job skills for the current workforce and looking for work are the biggest challenges for the 55+ age group.

Linda Siam, project director for the Northern Virginia Senior Community Services Employment Program, said future initiatives for the program include a biweekly “job coaching club,” and more specialized computer training courses.

“We want to ensure that our participants have an opportunity to go to each center and take the basic computer skills,” Siam explained. “These are very individual classes with a small group, so that they can receive direct attention and direct training.”

She added the computer courses will be available at all the program’s centers, so anyone can take advantage of them. On average, participants train around 20 hours a week and receive a stipend. The stipend amount is the highest minimum wage, whether that be federal, state or local.

Feedback about the program has been positive from the people who have signed up to diversify their workforce skills. Siam pointed out even with new skills, one challenge for participants is building up their confidence to venture into the workforce again.

“In talking about helping them set their goals, they may think that they’re unable to perform well, so really, we’re working with them on confidence building,” Siam observed. “Even when they’re at their site, still we’re in very close contact with them, in ensuring that they know they’re in a training program and that they’re there to learn.”

The pandemic was another challenge, although Siam said it was easily overcome by putting the computer skills training online through Zoom. But the lingering effects include reduced staff sizes for the training sites, and the hybrid workplace adjustments for a post-COVID world.

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