Resources for reentering the workforce

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com

With portfolio in hand and tie tightly knotted, Dave Arnold walked table to table at a job fair held Thursday in Williamsburg.

He wasn't looking for his first job, or even his second.

Arnold just turned 77. He retired in 2014 from a career spent in management, but he's on the hunt for a job as a driver or courier.

"We'd like to have enough money to travel," said Arnold. He and his wife live in Newport News, but he said they'd like to travel to Europe.

Arnold joined others looking to reenter the workforce at Thursday's job fair, presented by Peninsula Agency on Aging, AARP and the Virginia Employment Commission. The event targeted seniors and older workers, age 40 and over.

Employment of workers age 65 and over increased 101 percent between 1977 and 2007, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found.

The Bureau also projected the number of workers ages 65 to 74 in the labor force will increase from 6.3 million in 2012 to 10.9 million in 2022. For that same age group, the Bureau projects the labor force participation rate will increase from 27 percent in 2012 to 32 percent in 2022.

"People really are working a lot longer," said Diane Hartley, director of Peninsula Agency on Aging's Williamsburg office.

The reasons vary, Hartley said, "from financial to health benefits to just the sort of emotional well-being that can come from remaining active and working."

Whatever the reason for reentering the workforce, it's not always easily done.

"We see that people start having difficulty finding a job once they're 40 and over, because they're seen as older workers," Hartley said.

Bobby Horne, community ambassador for AARP Virginia, said AARP believes older workers (AARP's focus is 50 and older) are an asset to employers because of their experience and desire to work.

Hartley agreed: "They bring a lot of skills and experience. They bring strong soft skills."

Locally, there are plenty of resources for older workers no matter the stage of the job search, from tips on resume writing to networking to job training.

Peninsula Agency on Aging

The agency offers Experienced Employees in Transition, a 40-and-over career club that meets twice a month.

Hartley said the club allows members to network, helping each other identify job openings. From an educational standpoint, the club offers workshops and speakers on topics including resume writing, interviewing, maintaining positivity in the job hunt and more.

"We know that's much more how people find jobs nowadays," Hartley said. "Things have really changed as far as how a job search can be run."

For more information and resources from PAA, call 345-6277 or visit paainc.org.

Free and open to the public, the Experienced Employees in Transition club meets from 9-10:30 a.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at Historic Triangle Messmer Community Services Center, 312 Waller Mill Road.

That same Community Services Center also houses a SHARE Network Access Point (SNAP), open 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is a space, usually at a community organization, with computers available for a self-directed job search. Trained individuals are always present to assist and coach as needed.

The Peninsula Council for Workforce Development has compiled a list of SNAP locations in the area, including James City County Social Services at 5249 Olde Towne Road, which is open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. For the full list, visit pcfwd.org/job-seeker-services.

Williamsburg Regional Library

Each month, the library offers classes helpful to job seekers, from "Smart Job Searching" to basic computer classes.

"A lot of it's helping people do the online job applications," said Jan Marry, adult services librarian. "(A) surprising number of people don't know how to use a computer at all."

In addition to the classes, the library houses public access computers, and Marry said librarians can offer one-on-one assistance as needed.

"We have the computers, and the help for them," Marry said.

Classes are free, open to everyone. A library card is required to make an appointment for individual assistance. For more information on resources and classes available at the library, call 259-4040 or visit wrl.org/events/classes-and-computer-training.

AARP and AARP Foundation

At Thursday's job fair, Horne handed out pamphlets, papers and CDs containing helpful information for job seekers.

If you don't run across AARP in the community, though, the organization features much of the same information on its website at aarp.org/work/working-at-50-plus. Job seekers with questions can also call the main AARP office at 804-819-1902.

Peninsula Agency on Aging has partnered with the AARP Foundation, an affiliated charity of AARP, to launch the Senior Community Service Employment Program in the Greater Williamsburg area. The program places low-income seniors in temporary, part-time positions at approved local agencies.

In that position, workers learn marketable skills, while paid minimum wage. For example, a worker might be placed at the local foodbank, learning food preparation, said Cary Whiteside, a job counselor at AARP Foundation.

"It really does help people build confidence," Whiteside said.

The program is open to seniors age 55 and older, who qualify based on income. For more information, contact PAA at 345-6277.

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342

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