Mayors Support Employment of Older Workers
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Forty-three percent of the population of Berkshire County is age 55 and older, and they are looking for something meaningful to do in their golden years.
"They don't want to just go to Florida and enjoy the sunshine," Heather Boulger, executive director of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board, said Monday morning during a ceremony at North Adams City Hall marking the beginning of "National Employ Older Workers Week," which runs Sept. 19-24.
Boulger was joined by representatives from Elder Services of Berkshire County and BerkshireWorks Career Center in North Adams in the morning, where Mayor Richard Alcombright read and signed an official proclamation, and Pittsfield City Hall in the afternoon, where Director of Administrative Services Roberta McCulloch-Dews, on behalf of Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, also read the proclamation that Tyer previously had signed.
"I urge public officials for job placement and training and related services to improve access and training and employment opportunities for older citizens and for companies as well to provide employment opportunities to this important group," reads part of the proclamation.
Here in Berkshire County, Boulger said, there are 1,700 current job openings, and businesses should "tap into this often-overlooked resource" when hiring workers.
"The mature worker could help fill that gap," she said, listing the benefits of employing older workers as including their diligence, skill, loyalty and dependability.
National Employ Older Workers Week also showcases the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which provides on-the-job skills training to individuals 55 or older with limited financial resources. Participants are placed in paid community service positions for a maximum of 20 hours per week. The goal of the program is to prepare individuals with the necessary skills and job training to obtain unsubsidized employment. Participants receive orientation, skills assessments, a free physical exam, community service assignments, computer training, job search assistance and supportive services.
In Berkshire County, SCSEP is administered by Elder Services, and SCSEP Job Developer Linda Kay said 20 residents have joined the local one-year program working 20 hours a week, some with the goal of permanent employment.
Also speaking in North Adams on Monday morning was Sandy Totter, program coordinator of the Northern Berkshire Solid Waste Management District, who said that although she herself was planning on retiring to Florida as soon she was grateful for the older worker assigned to the district who has learned all the components to running the district and will be the "keystone" upon her retirement.
Melanie Gelaznik, manager of program operations at BerkshireWorks, also reminded the small group gathered in North Adams in the morning that there are services available both in Pittsfield at BerkshireWorks at 160 North St. and in North Adams right in City Hall that can help older workers prepare for job interviews and job transitions. She also plugged an upcoming BerkshireWorks job fair, set for this Wednesday, Sept. 21, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza in Pittsfield, where 60 employers looking for all kind of workers will be in attendance.
In North Adams, Alcombright helped wrap up the ceremony by reading the official proclamation and adding his own spin on how he thinks older workers can improve the community. In addition to modeling good a work ethic, he said, older workers are a "pool of opportunity" when it comes to the number one problem he sees facing his community these days, and that is the lack of supportive adults to engage youths.
"Who better to help our youth than our seniors?" he said. "You just have to ask people and they will come out and help."
In Pittsfield, McCulloch-Dews said Mayor Tyer congratulates everyone who is doing good work on behalf of employing seniors, especially the seniors themselves.
"It's not easy to go back into the workforce and get acclimated to new industries," she said. "I thank everyone who has made that decision and I also thank the employers who have decided to give the opportunity to those who have made that decision go back into the workforce."
iBerkshires.com staffer Andy McKeever contributed to this story.
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