Jockeying for jobs: Older workers struggle to find employmentJeaney Hauschildt knows the odds are against her. But the 65-year-old former bartender and waitress keeps trying.
By: Jen Cullen, The Republican Eagle
Jeaney Hauschildt knows the odds are against her.
But the 65-year-old former bartender and waitress keeps trying.
Hauschildt turns in job application after job application, knowing that most of the time she'll never even land an interview.
On the rare occasion she does get a face-to-face conversation with an employer, the Red Wing woman is well aware that her age and limp unfairly take her out of the running.
"Employers don't look at us like we're hiring material," Hauschildt said of older adults like herself looking for a job.
The recession is affecting workers ages 45 and over differently than their younger counterparts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A disproportionate number of older workers are considered long-term unemployed or out of work six months or longer.
Older adults were jobless 22.2 weeks in 2008, compared with 16.2 weeks for younger job-seekers.
"I've been to every thing, every place and every kind in town and it's just almost impossible," Hauschildt said. "So don't say I didn't try."
A series of car crashes forced Hauschildt out of bartending and waitressing more than 10 years ago.
But she considers herself lucky: Hauschildt is one of 14 Goodhue County residents who qualify for the Senior Community Services Employment Program.
SCSEP provides community service and work-based training for older low-income workers.
The program is funded entirely through federal grants and managed locally by Marilyn Olson, who places participants with not-for-profit agencies.
Federal Department of Labor grant money pays the participants - who must be over age 55 and meet income requirements - minimum wage for 20 hours of work at the agencies.
Participants also have access to a monthly support group as well as help with resumes, cover letters and job searching. They must apply for two jobs each month.
"This program saved my life," Hauschildt said.
Part of Olson's job is helping participants find work not funded by the federal program.
But since 2002, Olson has watched older workers like Hauschildt struggle to find better-paying employment. The problem has gotten progressively worse as the economy falters.
"There's no place for them to go," Olson said.
She said many employers hesitate to hire an older worker for a number of reasons, including insurance costs.
Plus, they can usually get a younger person to do the job faster for less pay.
But Olson said older, more experienced workers bring important qualities to the workplace that can be hard to find elsewhere.
"They bring things to the table others cannot," Olson said. "They bring experience, maturity, an ability to calm and settle the workplace."
Some older workers are overlooked because they do not have a college degree, Olson said.
"What hurts to hear is if you don't have the college education the door isn't even open for you to come share your experiences that are cumulatively better than a college experience," Olson said. "None of that even matters."
@Sub heads:'You are what you do'
@Normal1: Hauschildt was out of work for three years after her third bad car crash.
She started feeling depressed and had a hard time getting out of bed in the morning.
Hauschildt needed work but was unable to do the jobs she was most familiar with due to injuries and pain from her car crashes.
Hauschildt had waitressed and bartended for 16 years. She needed to get out of the house and interact with people.
Olson said many older adults feel the same way after being fired or laid off.
"Emotionally it's devastating, financially it's devastating" Olson said. "Especially with seniors ... having a job is a definition of themselves. You are what you do.
"People need something to do on a regular basis," Olson added. "They need to go where they are needed, they need to interact socially."
Hauschildt was at a low point when she heard eight years ago about the Senior Community Services Employment Program.
She was placed with the American Red Cross and has worked with the agency ever since, learning skills and performing tasks she never imagined possible.
Hauschildt could not even turn on a computer before becoming a SCSEP participant. Now she's doing office work and typing e-mails.
"It makes you feel like you're worth something. It gives you self-confidence," Hauschildt said. "It makes you want to be better."
But Hauschildt's time on the program may be running out.
In July 2007 Congress put a limit - four years - on how long participants can use the program.
The news was devastating for Hauschildt, who says she already lives paycheck to paycheck and could not survive without her minimum-wage job.
The mother of three adult children - she's also still caring for her aging parents - tries not to think about what will happen if the federal government allows the limits to stay put.
Hauschildt hopes the economy turns around and she's able to find a better-paying job with an employer who realizes the value in older workers.
"We have experience. We work hard," Hauschildt said. "Our generation is a generation that holds a job up high. It's something they're proud of."