When Eileen O'Reilly of Colorado Springs was diagnosed with and being treated for breast cancer, she found it impossible to keep working her usual 65-to-70-hour weeks as chief information officer for a small tech company. After she quit her job, she took on work with a consultant, but then the economy turned sour. "Unable to find work, along with having a mountain of medical bills, I filed for bankruptcy and lost my house and my self-confidence," she says.
See also: Helping jobless rebuild working lives.
Never having been in need of government support before, Eileen had no idea where to find assistance, or even what — if any — was out there. A lay minister from her church told her about an AARP Foundation program for people like her.
"They gave me help, encouragement and acceptance, along with the opportunity to job train at Urban Peak, a teenage homeless shelter," she says. "After about six months I was hired on full-time."
Eileen is one of the thousands of low-income, unemployed people whom AARP Foundation Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) works with each year. The job-training program helps place financially struggling adults age 55 or older in community service and government organizations, and has recently received $52 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Labor for its program year ending July 1, 2013. The department funds other nonprofits to run SCSEPs as well.
At a time of rapidly decreasing government funding, AARP Foundation SCSEP received a grant increase of $1 million over its last program year. AARP Foundation has helped administer the program for more than 40 years. Under the program, community and local government organizations ranging from day care centers to museums to food banks provide job training to enrollees. There is no cost to these organizations to train the enrollees — the program itself covers workers' minimum wages and workers' compensation. SCSEP enrollees, in turn, learn on the job, thus helping them qualify for permanent work.
In addition, AARP Foundation SCSEP received a $468,000 grant from the state of Nevada to operate SCSEP in the state and help out-of-work, low-income Nevadans 55-plus train for jobs. SCSEP is the only job-training program in the nation, private or public, that focuses on training unemployed people 55-plus whose incomes are no higher than 125 percent of the poverty level ($13,316).
As for Eileen, she left Urban Peak to become an independent database consultant, but for the former administrator, working on her own was not satisfying. She's back now, working full-time as Urban Peak's volunteer service coordinator. "I'm happy to report we have hired our first new person from AARP Foundation SCSEP," she says.
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