If you work with a great team, you know how fortunate you are. There are five individuals on my immediate team, each one a star in their own right. We work separately and together, almost seamlessly.
I could extol the virtues of each of them, and you would understand my great appreciation for them. But for today, I want to talk about one in particular.
Dilys has been with this team for a little more than six months. She is administrator extraordinaire of one of our programs. She learned the operation so quickly we could hardly believe it.
Dilys is very smart, anticipates potential issues, and has great problem-solving skills. Her customer service skills make us all look good every day.
When we have team or one-on-one meetings, Dilys brings suggestions and valuable insights every time. I can count on her to help me – and others – creatively solve problems.
If anyone has a challenge to their day, either on our team or throughout the campus, she steps in to lighten the load.
I have known Dilys for almost two years, and have been part of her path toward employment since meeting her. In that time, she has only missed a couple days of work. She arrives a few minutes early every day, and is willing to stay late if needed.
So, it would make sense right now if you were wishing Dilys worked for you. And you would be smart and lucky to have hired her.
Dilys is with us because of a federal program called Senior Community Services Employment Program (SCSEP). The purpose of SCSEP is to assist people older than 55, who’ve been out of the workforce for a time, to find employment.
Once we have enrolled a participant, we help them to rebuild their work skills, including computer classes, build a resume, practice interviews and much more.
While a participant is updating their skills, we place them with a local nonprofit organization, which we call a host site, to get some on-the-job training.
While working at the host site, the participant receives an hourly wage at the current minimum wage rate. We help them with their weekly job searches, post their resumes, write letters of application, and even talk about appropriate attire if necessary. Our job is to help them find and retain unsubsidized employment.
Dilys’ resume reflects an impressive work history. Her letters of application are professional and well communicated. She applies for work for which she is very well suited.
Not only has Dilys not gotten a job outside of the SCSEP program, she has only had two interviews in two years – and both of them were because I knew the prospective employer personally.
How could that be?
What I haven’t told you is that Dilys is 75 years old (and yes, she gave me permission to tell you). It is near impossible to submit an application online without revealing your age. Companies have gotten very savvy in that regard.
What say you, employers? How might we challenge this culture? Is this ageism? Or worse?
At the Area Agency on Aging, we are funded for about 12 SCSEP participants annually. We meet with them individually and as a group, frequently.
Dilys’ experience is representative of other participants. There are many similar programs across the state and across the country, and the vast majority are struggling with the same roadblock.
It is disheartening at the least. The selfish part of me is glad for every day that Dilys is on my team. But she deserves, as much or more than anyone I work with, to have the security of an unsubsidized job.
I hope you will contact the Area Agency on Aging if you would like to learn more about the SCSEP program.
Pat Arter is senior volunteer program director of Region IV Area Agency on Aging in Southwest Michigan. Questions on age or independence services? Call the Info-Line for Aging & Disability at 800-654-2810 or visit www.areaagencyonaging.org. The Generations column appears each Sunday in The Herald-Palladium.