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Older Workers Striving to Learn New Technologies


"I need help uploading job applications.” “I didn’t know Excel, so I didn’t get hired.”  These are common refrains heard from older workers, age 55 and up, who are currently searching for employment.


“They are intimidated by the computer,” said Jo Ann Kuruc, career skills instructor at Yavapai College. “Many times they weren’t working on computers at their former jobs, but now, most employers even require filling out applications online.”

Beyond that, employers are often inundated with applications and can choose applicants who meet the job requirements exactly, down to specific software program experience. Additionally, older workers can expect to be searching for a job longer than their younger counterparts, according to February 2010 Department of Labor statistics.

Fortunately, agencies and colleges have training programs in place to assist job seekers during this tough job market.

“Maybe I am fortunate in that I love to learn and I like new experiences,” said Gloria Thysell, age 65 plus. “I continue to search for ways to improve my work skills.” Thysell has taken advantage of both the Coconino Career Center and the Flagstaff Public Library one-on-one computer tutoring programs. The Coconino Career Center has programs for economically disadvantaged people to help them find work; however, the center’s workshops, computer lab and job clubs are open to the public.

“Job Clubs are support groups, which we facilitate, where participants can bond with people in similar circumstances,” said Janetta Beaumont, deputy director of the Coconino Career Center. “It isn’t just somebody sitting there saying ‘you need or ought to do that’ or ‘have you done that?’ It’s people sharing experiences and resources.” The Career Center can operate as a clearinghouse for other local services, providing referrals as appropriate, according to Beaumont. Other services for increasing computer skills include a One Stop, the FUSD Family Resource Center and the Flagstaff Public Library.

The public library offers free computer classes on basic computer skills and software programs, such as Word and Excel. They also offer one-on-one tutoring. “We saw a need for this kind of resource among the community,” said Holland Christie, public services manager of the Flagstaff Public Library. “We have always offered classes. This was just another way for us to connect with people that is a little less intimidating. Instead of a classroom setting, where you might be seated with somebody or a group of people whose skills surpass your own, this is an opportunity to sit with someone one-on-one.” Started in October 2009 by Heidi Holland, the library director, the tutoring program helps around 22 people per month, and most (but not all) are above the age of 50. Tutors might help with everything from Excel basics to how to start a Facebook account.

Yavapai College offers a six-week Career Skills course in Clarkdale for all ages that covers everything from deciding on a career to how to apply for a job to basic computer skills. Unemployed workers and displaced homemakers are often eligible for scholarships, so the course could be no-cost for participants. They also periodically offer a special three-week program in Sedona, “Career Skills for the Mature  Workers,” geared towards strengthening job application skills and basic computer skills.

“As they get more confident on the computer, they are better equipped to go out and compete in today’s highly competitive job market,” said Kuruc. Career Centers, One Stop Centers, libraries, and local colleges can provide valuable services to those looking for additional help during these difficult times. “The One Stop Centers and Career Centers pretty much cover everything: how to read online job descriptions, how to prepare and present yourself at job fairs. There are a lot of tools out there for us. But you have to make the effort to use them,” said Thysell.

And the need for these resources is likely to increase. A recent article in The New York Times by Jane Brody quoted Census Bureau statistics stating that the number of people over 100 years of age has more than doubled since 1990. “Since we will be living longer, and hopefully be healthier longer, we will be in the workforce longer,” said Christie. “How do you ensure that this group is continually trained and will remain vital contributing members to the community?” FBN

Coconino Career Center


Flagstaff Public Library

Computer classes www.flagstaffpubliclibrary.org/services/comp- classes.html One-on-one Tutoring Main 928-779-7670 East 928-774-8434

Yavapai College

Career Skills Program web page www.yc.edu/content/careerskillsprogram/ default.htm

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2 Responses to Older Workers Striving to Learn New Technologies

  1. BootsHobslord February 26, 2011 at 6:54 AM #

    hi, new to the site, thanks.

  2. Lance Laben December 12, 2011 at 3:00 PM #

    JoAnn is the most helpful and beautiful instructor. Where was she when I was growing up. We could have been a passionate couple for decades.

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