Joseph T. Crowe, director, Quality Career Services, Inc., 2515 Wabash Avenue in St. Paul, with Chad “Toojvas” Lee, Southeast Asian community liaison.
By TOM LAVENTURE
AAP staff writer
ST. PAUL (Feb. 19, 2010) – Chad “Toojvas” Lee, the new Southeast Asian community liaison for the Senior Community Service Employment Program at Quality Career Services is busy qualifying elders with jobs through a new program.
SCSEP is a job training and placement program for people age 55 or older made possible with funding from the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Program. It assists with placing 25,000 seniors with employers annually, along with 40 million community service hours job training for nearly 100,000.
The SCSEP is making an effort to reach refugee and immigrant elders with $740,000 in additional funding for underserved populations where workers face additional barriers to employment. Communities especially at risk are Southeast Asian, Hispanic and Native Americans.
“This is an opportunity for them to go out and really learn something and work for it,” said Lee. “It can be a really good program.
The traditional barriers of language, lack of a formal education, disability, or the lack of work experience in America are considered strengths in a program that creates jobs with agencies and nonprofits that need them to work with their communities.
Eligible workers must be unemployed, age 55 or older, and meet income guidelines that put them at 125 percent of poverty level. The program formula allows a 25 percent deduction of Social Security Income and other SSI or disability income is not figured. What is counted is earned wages and pensions.
There is no maximum age, in fact age is a plus. Applicants are just asked to be willing to work and willing to learn new things using an on the job training model.
“One of the reasons that I hired Chad here was so that we could go out and do direct outreach to the Southeast Asian community, especially the Hmong community, which is the largest Southeast Asian community in this area,” said Crowe.
QCS has been around for 40 years when the Older Americans Act was established. It is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration which pays for training, wages and benefits through SCSEP.
QCS has so far found workers jobs in Ramsey, Dakota, Anoka, Goodhue and Stearns County. They are not contracted to work in Hennepin County.
SCSEP helps participants secure employment after receiving training. The goal is to help seniors find economic self-sufficiency with opportunities in community service and unsubsidized employment in both the public and private sectors.
SCSEP trainees receive help in meeting employment goals and with preparing to enter or re-enter the job market. To readjust to a new workplace, many elder workers will need to learn new skills, many times learning computers and office technology for the first time.
The SCSEP can continue to teach soft job skills of punctuality, following a schedule, customer service skills, and if needed, the technology for the position, computes, copiers, office phones with multiple lines.
Elders have found part-time job training assignments with local community or government agencies, clinics, libraries, schools, senior centers and social service organizations.
Just over a year ago SCSEP qualified for “Stimulus Funds” that allowed them to employ around 40 additional workers until June 2010. Recovery Act funds this year will allow an extension of those workers with an additional 30 new people to the SCSEP program through 2011.
Seniors earn the Federal Minimum Wage of $7.25 an hour, to do some kind of community service assignment at a host agency nonprofit or government agency. To qualify a host agency must be a government agency or a nonprofit organization.
The jobs for the immigrant populations in the program are created when the employer nonprofit or government agency has a connection with the worker as a service provider to their community. Together they identify a support position that could be filled by an ethnic elder worker.
“They have to create the whole new job,” said Lee. “Filing, janitorial, anything they can find in order to create an opportunity at their agency.”
Le has so far helped to fund jobs at the Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women. He has also found people jobs as Hmong outreach callers for the Salvation Army, using their language skills to inform community about donation pick up bin locations and food or clothing drives.
The jobs aren’t the type to replace regular staff. They are support staff that are needed but were likely cut or never created because of careful budgeting during a difficult economy.
Lee is also working to form positions with Lao Family Community, Hmong American Partnership, United Cambodian Association of Minnesota, and Vietnamese Social Services, which also hosts Karen and Somali community programs. They are also open to other programs contacting them with ideas.
Crowe said that the program helps people adjust to the American work setting. He said that by working with Somali Cultural and Human Services, the SCSEP program is able to help elders that have not worked in an urban experience after a lifetime of working with livestalk and agriculture in a rural setting.
The two organizations worked with William Mitchell College of Law to train them in occupational roles as community mediators.
“As elders they are respected and they can go in and resolve them without it having to go any further,” said Crowe. “It creates better harmony and the seniors also learn what it means to have a work schedule, certain various defined responsibilities, and what it means to file reports on their activities so that we know what they are doing.”
The ideal job plan is when everyone knows what is expected of everyone from the very beginning. It starts with a negotiation involving SCSEP, the participating agency and the elder worker.
The worker has a structured work environment with a clear job description that is clear on their responsibilities. Learning the limits of lifting and other restrictive duties will help prevent a hazardous situation from developing.
A worker may also feel they don’t not enough work to and would know to contact SCSEP or their supervisor to reassess the work agreement. In this way the work will stay challenging and make the worker more valuable to the employer.
“We want everyone to agree that they are going to follow the description that is written down,” said Crowe. “It starts with a blank piece of paper.”
Quality Career Services is located at 2515 Wabash Avenue, Suite LL1, St. Paul, MN 55114. Contact the office at 651-647-9322. Visit online at www.qualitycareerservices.org or www.doleta.gov/seniors.