The aging American workforce is fast becoming a dominant economic storyline in the United States. An estimated 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day until approximately 2030, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Employers will need to accommodate older workers, appropriately rebranded as “experienced workers.”
The United Way of the Cape Fear Area has sponsored and housed a federally funded program for seniors for more than a decade. This program works diligently to offer experienced workers to potential employers and community-based organizations, and to dispel the myth that older workers lack the ability to contribute to the workforce. The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) is the only federal program specifically targeted to serve low-income older adults who are seeking employment, paid community service and training assistance opportunities. The Government Accountability Office had identified SCSEP, which was authorized by Title V of the Older Americans Act (OAA) and started in 1965, as one of only three federal programs with no overlap or duplication.
SCSEP has been sponsored locally by the United Way of the Cape Fear Area since 1977 and currently serves New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender, Columbus and Onslow counties. SCSEP is funded by Senior Service America, Inc., a national SCSEP sponsor, through grants from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Division of Older Workers Programs and continues to be supported by United Way of the Cape Fear Area.
SCSEP participants work part-time at minimum wage for a local nonprofit or public agency serving their communities. This paid work experience prepares many of them to find employment not paid with the SCSEP dollars, while also providing much needed income. Currently 58 SCSEP participants are working in the Cape Fear Area serving as office assistants, receptionists or program assistants. Recently, SCSEP participants provided 2,110 hours in community service during a two-week period.
One such participant is Dorothy. Dorothy was previously assigned through SCSEP to work for the Pender County Department of Social Services, and was recently hired by Special Services Freight Company of the Carolinas to work as a full-time office assistant in Castle Hayne.
“SCSEP was a lifeline for me, providing not only on-the-job training but wages to support me while seeking employment,” she said. “I would have never landed this job had it not been for SCSEP.”
The DisAbility Resource Center (DRC) in Wilmington has relied on SCSEP to meet the majority of its staffing needs during the past eight years. Currently, half of the DRC’s regular staff members were SCSEP participants. Positions held include community resource specialist, computer and social media specialist, office manager, volunteer coordinator and receptionist.
We are proud to announce that during the past 18 months, 23 SCSEP participants have obtained unsubsidized employment. We hope to increase this number and are seeking potential employers who are willing and able to maximize the true value of an experienced worker. Please call Phillip Hedgepeth at the United Way office at (910) 798-3900, ext. 108, for more information. Or send him an email at [email protected].
Christopher L. Nelson is president of the United Way of the Cape Fear Area, a local nonprofit organization. Since 1941, the United Way of the Cape Fear Area has worked alongside local agencies in Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender counties to assist them in providing substantial and sustainable change within the Cape Fear area. To learn more about the United Way of the Cape Fear Region, go to https://uwcfa.org/ or call (910) 798-3900.
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