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Program provides employment opportunities for older Pennsylvanians

November 6, 2010

The Senior Community Service Employment Program awarded gift cards to several area residents. From left to right: Kim Kerchinski, business manager of St. Mary's Parish; Eton Karenchak, SCSEP participant; Anne Marie Pfoutz, parish secretary; Marian Viglione, SCSEP participant; Janice Gerarge, gift card recipient; and Marianne BoLee, SCSEP training and employment specialist for Elk County. Missing from photo are gift card recipients Dave Catalano and Judith Shipping. Photo by Victoria Stanish.

The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) is a federally funded, community service and work-based training program that provides subsidized job training and employment opportunities for people age 55 and older who are unemployed or whose employment outlook is poor. Through SCSEP, older individuals can benefit by becoming more economically self-sufficient, and businesses benefit by being able to make use of qualified and reliable employees.
The funding for SCSEP in Elk County is distributed through PathStone, a not-for-profit community development and human service organization that provides services in Pennsylvania and several other states. Marianne BoLee, a Pathstone representative and the training and employment specialist for SCSEP in Elk County, said participants are placed at various nonprofit or public facilities such as senior centers, hospitals and schools to develop skills and experiences that will lead to more permanent employment.
On average, participants work about 20 hours per week at and are paid minimum wage at the state or federal level, whichever is highest, while they receive on-the-job training.
"It's not intended as a lifelong income. It's intended as a stepping stone to help them financially," BoLee said.
BoLee said there are 27 people currently enrolled in the program in Elk County. Some are looking for work, but have outdated skills; some have lost their jobs due to layoffs or business closings; and others have never worked outside of the home, but want to or need to do so at their current stage in life.
BoLee explained that older workers bring maturity, stability, people skills and a wealth of life experience to the table, and help to fill current gaps in the workforce. While they are supplementing or learning new skills through SCSEP, she said, they are also gaining confidence in their abilities.
"They may think, 'Who's going to hire me?' That's not true," BoLee said. "The placement of older workers is seen as an effective and cost-saving resource for employers."
There are approximately 20 active SCSEP training sites in Elk County, including LIFT, Goodwill, Dickinson Apartments and Trinity United Methodist Church in Ridgway, HUD in Johnsonburg, the Johnsonburg Community Center and Fox Manor in Kersey. Nine more sites are waiting for participants.
For more on this story, see the Nov. 5 edition of The Daily Press.

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