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Maryland Resources for Older Workers

The daily headlines remind us that millions of Americans remain unemployed during this recession. Older workers are a significant part of this story. A recent AARP fact sheet reported that nearly 2.1 million of the unemployed in June were at least 55 years old – 14.2 percent of the total unemployed. And once unemployed, older workers tend to be out of work longer than their younger counterparts – an average of 40.6 weeks.

Sales manager Chip Morris understands the many emotions – and questions – that come with unemployment. Morris, now 54, was temporarily unemployed in 2006 and remembers asking himself, “Do I want to stay in this industry? Change careers? In a new industry, who would even look at hiring someone my age?”

In response to the continuingly bleak employment news and the unique needs of older workers, AARP Maryland is participating in several initiatives to help jobseekers 50 and older re-train, re-tool, and successfully re-enter the workforce.

“Like other age groups, older workers have been adversely affected in this economy,” explains AARP Maryland state president Jennie Rothschild, Ph.D. “And regardless of economic conditions, AARP research shows that 70 percent of Boomers plan to work past traditional retirement years.”

“No matter the reason for continuing to work, AARP and our fellow organizations in Maryland are providing valuable resources and education for both workers and employers,” said Rothschild.

In Montgomery County, public and private grants support The Career Gateway, a program to help mid-life and older workers enter or return to the workforce. In six classes over three weeks, the Career Gateway provides an overview of today’s job market and offers techniques to help revamp your resume, hone your interviewing skills, and network effectively. Sessions are available through November, at a cost of $75. To learn more, call 301-255-4200, e-mail JCAUniversity@AccessJCA.org, or download the Career Gateway brochure.

Funded by a U.S. Department of Labor Grant, the Baltimore County Office of Workforce Development is providing free training to workers over age 55 for careers in health care. The Maturity Works initiative began training its first students in June, and is also educating employers about the benefits of hiring older workers. Applicants who pass initial testing and are accepted into the program can choose six- to 13-month training tracks for medical billing and coding, nursing assistants, surgical technicians and other health care jobs. For more information, call the Maturity Works program manager at 410-887-5516.

And coming soon, AARP Maryland is collaborating with the Community College of Baltimore County to create a five-week course series for older workers. The CCBC course is expected to launch this fall.

“Through AARP’s National Employer Team and its free online webinar series, AARP is at the national forefront paving the way for older workers,” concluded AARP’s Rothschild. “In our collaborations on these innovative programs, we are excited to focus on supporting workers and job-seekers here in Maryland.”

Morris, who is back at work after close to 40 interviews, is happy to have landed with an employer that values talent regardless of age. He encourages optimism – and taking advantage of every opportunity. “Don’t sit in your home moping – get out there and network.”

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