Mar 072013

Karen Shanahan (seated) brushes up on her computer skills with the help of her instructor Larry White in the 50 Plus Job Ready training program at Owens Community College’s Arrowhead Park Learning Center.

BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — Being unemployed and looking for a new job at any age can be daunting. But it can be more challenging for people over the age of 50 who are unemployed and looking for work. “Let’s be realistic – not a lot of people in Toledo are hiring 65-year-old women,” Karen Shanahan said. With 25 years of experience in logistics planning, Shanahan is looking for a job after her former employer of 12 years hit an economic downturn and eliminated her position with the company. “When the government says, ‘We need to raise the retirement age’, I say, ‘Sure, who’s hiring?’” she said. Shanahan and several other unemployed people over age 50 are taking the 50 Plus Job Ready training program at Owens Community College’s Arrowhead Park Learning Center in Maumee. “I felt like I was getting rusty and I wanted more hands-on learning skills,” she said. According to Gary Corrigan, market analyst for Owens Community College, Ohio has the seventh largest population of seniors in the United States with 1.54 million people age 65 and older. “Baby boomers and healthcare advancements will create the largest older population in history,” he said. The average jobless person between the ages of 55 and 64 will spend approximately one year looking for a new job, he said. Program instructor Larry White said that there are many reasons an employer may overlook a prospective employee over age 50. “An employer may hesitate because they don’t know how long an older individual will continue working or because they believe they lack certain computer skills,” he said. Contrary to that belief, employees over age 50 can have extensive work experience, are dependable and have a great work ethic, White said. “A lot of them have computer experience but they were for canned programs specific to the company they worked for,” White said. The 50 Plus Job Ready training program offers instruction in Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook along with information on the best ways to navigate the Internet to search for job opportunities. Students also build their resumes, write cover letters and learn interviewing skills in the program, which meets twice a week for 10 weeks. “We want employers to see that these people are a great commodity,” White said. Nearly 200 individuals have participated in the program since Owens began offering it last year. Several of those in the training program were laid off, forced to retire early or lost their jobs because of downsizing. Others get burned out, but all of those looking for work later in life face the challenge of transitioning, Corrigan said. “For many people in the program this is a struggle and a challenge. They’re thinking, ‘Hey, I’m a good person. Why is this happening to me?’” Corrigan said. Claudia Taylor, who spent 25 years working at a child care facility, said that the rise in unemployment decreased the demand for child care, thus eliminating her job. “The center where I worked closed due to lack of enrollment. Now I’m trying to re-market myself,” she said. Several in the class agreed that they could not rely on Social Security or investments as income. “Many of us don’t have a pension plan and it’s too late to start saving for retirement, plus we can’t count on Social Security, so for our age group that can’t find work, this is really a dilemma,” Shanahan said. Carole Harteis lost her county job because of budget cuts. In addition, her husband became ill and the couple lost their home due to mounting medical bills. “That’s when the bottom fell out. But if there is a silver lining, it’s that we are here getting trained and getting our confidence level back,” she said. Corrigan said that the training program would embellish the students’ profile and help them make connections. “The next job you will get is through networking, and this is the first step in networking,” he said. The 50 Plus Job Ready program is funded through the Experience Works Training Grant, which is sponsored by Walmart Foundation. After the grant funds run out in June, the class will be self-pay. For additional information about the program, contact Owens Community College at (567) 661-7357.