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Fifty-Plus assists seniors looking for work

According to Retirementjobs.com, North Carolina ranks 12th in the nation in total job opportunities for seniors, and accounts for 3.1 percent of all workers over 55 in the United States.

But for many workers who find themselves unemployed after the age of 50, finding those jobs can be a tough challenge.

The Fifty-Plus Program, recently implemented at Albemarle’s NC Works Career Center, is designed to assist those of the senior age group who are seeking work.

“We try to match strengths and skills with what employers need,” said Kristy Ross, talent engagement specialist with NC Works, who directs the program.

Regular meetings on the first and third Thursday of each month provide participants with up-to-date training on topics such as resume development, online applications and interview skills. The meetings also provide a means for local businesses to meet face-to-face with those seeking employment.

Kristy Ross (above) leads the Fifty-Plus Program for seniors on the first and third Thursday of each month.

At the first meeting this month, representatives from potential employers included Michelle Mills with the U.S. Census and Brandon Bay with Best Western Lodging. In addition, Frances Thornton, business services representative for NC Works, and Gus Vanegas, center director, also attended, along with six seniors seeking employment.

“You are not alone,” Vanegas said. “We know you have skills, and we can place you somewhere.”

Assistance for those seeking work does not stop at the conclusion of the meeting, as the Job Works Center assists these clients individually with information on openings that are consistent with their skill set.

Job training and retraining for low-income and displaced workers is available through federal funding provided by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and partnerships with organizations such as AARP help place 50-plus workers in age and ability-appropriate employment.

“Sometimes, you have to reinvent yourself by developing new talents and abilities,” said Ross, who constantly encourages program participants to learn new skills at every opportunity.

“For example, almost everything now is computer-based, and there is a constant need to update your knowledge,” she said, leading into a presentation from Joshua Barbee of Stanly Community College on online applications and resume’ building.

“If you don’t already have a resume in digital form, you need to put one together,” said Barbee, who led a step-by-step presentation for attendees on how to navigate through and complete an online job application.

Barbee also encouraged attendees to take advantage of resources such as Human Resource Development classes at Stanly Community College.

“These classes help individuals develop employability skills, such as interview skills and computer skills,” Barbee said.

Participants attending the program felt the information presented was helpful.

Melissa Martin of Albemarle saw information on the Fifty-Plus program on Facebook and decided to “check it out.”

“I’m currently out of work after having served as a CNA at the hospital in Union County,” she said. “When we moved from Oakboro to Albemarle, the commute was just too much.”

However, Martin said many local businesses advertising for CNAs do not offer pay competitive with what she received from her previous employer.

“What they are offering is too low,” she said.

“I worked with Family Dollar headquarters in Charlotte for 21 years, but became unemployed last May when the company relocated,” said Barbara Payne, who feels businesses often “undervalue” applicants over 50.

“They can’t come right out and say it, but age discrimination still exists,” said Payne, who said firms often view older applicants as “not savvy.”
Nevertheless, Payne described the Fifty-Plus program as “great for this area.”

“Having worked in the Charlotte area for years, this helps me learn what is available in Stanly County.”

For more information on the Fifty-Plus Program, contact Kristy Ross at the NC Works Career Center in Albemarle at 704-982-2183.