By Stephen Dawkins
Shelby County Reporter
U.S. Sen. Doug Jones and the Senate Special Committee on Aging heard about Jefferson State Community College’s BACK TO WORK 50+ program and related topics during a hearing held at the college’s Shelby-Hoover Campus on Friday, Nov. 30.
Jones is a member of the committee, which was established in 1961, granted permanent status in 1977 and serves as focal point in the Senate for discussion and debate on matters relating to older Americans—often submitting its findings and recommendations for legislation to the full Senate.
“I’m eager to learn more about your experiences working on this important issue,” Jones said at the beginning of the hearing.
BACK TO WORK 50+ is a partnership between Jefferson State and the AARP Foundation that offers job seekers who are 50 and older resources to help update their skills and receive free job training.
Resources include a coaching program to help with networking skills, provide information about the local job market and guide access to short-term job training.
Witnesses at the hearing included Tamara Payne, director of career and learning services at Jefferson State; Montina Dorsey-Collins, BACK TO WORK 50+ participant; Sheila Baker, director of senior community service employment programs for the Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging; Doug Dean, vice president of human resources for Children’s of Alabama; and Lori Strauss, manager of workforce programs for AARP Foundation.
Payne said BACK TO WORK 50+ features a workshop that includes an analysis of the seven effective habits for older job seekers: targeted job search, create personal marketing tools to impress employers, conquering the job application and interview process, get new work experiences and skills, meet people who know people, connect with organizations that find jobs for employers and take time to focus on yourself and stay strong.
Dorsey-Collins said she discovered that seeking a job now is much different than when she first starting working.
“My BACK TO WORK 50+ coaching sessions were invaluable,” Dorsey-Collins said. “We talked about the difficulties of finding new/better employment for people over 50. The coaching helped me see the value in myself and the many skills that I already possess.”
Baker said M4A’s Senior Community Service Employment Program provides qualified low-income adults age 55 and older with part-time subsidized employment and prepares them for the local job market.
“M4A is committed to making it possible for low-income and other disadvantaged adults to participate fully in determining their own future and the future of their communities,” Baker said.
In Alabama, about half of the residents between the ages of 55 and 64 are employed, and many are not unemployed by choice, according to AARP.
For more information about BACK TO WORK 50+ and to register for workshops, call Jefferson State at 856-8588. The next workshops are scheduled for January 8 at the Jefferson Campus and January 9 at the Shelby-Hoover Campus from 1-3 p.m.
For more information about M4A’s Senior Community Service Employment Program, call 670-5770 or visit M4A.org.