Helping Senior New Hampshire Residents Return to the Workforce

Helping Senior New Hampshire Residents Return to the Workforce Through Community Service Assignments

The Senior Community Service Employment Program at Operation ABLE

Imagine the difficulty of finding a job in the post-pandemic era if you don’t have the skills that today’s employers require. That’s the reality facing many of New Hampshire’s senior residents considering a return to the workforce as the pandemic and current economic conditions have forced them to rethink what lies ahead.

One path to employment for eligible New Hampshire residents is the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), the nation’s oldest employment program for seniors. It was authorized under the Older Americans Act in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Congress has continually funded the program since then. The program is based on the reality that economic changes often result in mature workers losing their jobs or being forced into retirement before they are ready, and those considering a return to work may need to update their skills. Through a mix of training and support services, The SCSEP program is helping senior job seekers overcome obstacles, build confidence, and gain the skills needed to return to work. Over the 57 years of its existence, SCSEP has proven to be a steppingstone to employment for thousands of low-income, unemployed individuals 55 and older.

Operation ABLE, a 501(c)3 organization celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year, has been an administrator of the SCSEP program in the state of Massachusetts since the ’90s, and in NH since 2017, and has helped thousands of older workers find employment throughout the communities it serves.

Kristin Gorrie is ABLE’s Regional SCSEP Manager. A lifelong resident of the state, she has been with New Hampshire’s SCSEP program since 2009, starting as an employment specialist with the original NH SCSEP grantee, National ABLE Network. She was subsequently promoted to SCSEP Program Manager for Hillsborough and Rockingham Counties, the two largest counties in the state. In February of 2017, when Operation ABLE was awarded administration of the NH SCSEP program, Kristin joined Operation ABLE as Regional SCSEP Manager, and she has held that position since then.

“The SCSEP Program is ideal for seniors who would welcome an opportunity to re-engage in a productive, rewarding role,” said Gorrie, “Some may not be ready for retirement, some may need income, and some may simply want to brush up on their job skills in this new, post-pandemic environment.” ”SCSEP participants are placed in paid internships for up to 20 hrs./week in local nonprofits and government agencies (better known in SCSEP as “host agencies”). Some examples of New Hampshire host agencies include NH Foodbank, Goodwin Community Health, Grafton County Senior Citizen’s Council, and the Portsmouth Housing Authority. In these paid internships, SCSEP participants not only provide needed support to the community, but also gain the skills, experience, and confidence they need to transition to paid employment.

Examples of training assignments, which are based on assessments and an Individual Employment Plan (IEP), can include Office and Admin Support, Community and Social Services Support, Hospitality, Customer Service, and many other similar positions.  The program is a win/win as the host agencies benefit from having SCSEP participants providing helpful support at no cost, while the participants get on-the-job training amidst a productive return to the workforce.

The goal of the SCSEP program is to help participants transition to unsubsidized employment. For those interested in enrolling, Kristin and her counterpart, Louise DeBlois, SCSEP Program Coordinator for ABLE’s New Hampshire North Country Satellite Office in Berlin, assist with the process, then work closely with participants throughout their engagement, providing case management, job counseling, and connections to hiring employers and key workforce development agencies in the state, such as the New Hampshire Employment Security.  It is a daily challenge but one which they embrace. Kristin shared this insight: “Enrolling in SCSEP is a great way for these individuals to get back into the workforce, test the waters, and gain helpful experience at the same time,” she said. “The most rewarding part of our job is seeing our program participants contributing, interacting, and finding a meaningful purpose again.”  Louise also commented on the benefits to host agencies: “Any of our host agencies who need to fill support roles can benefit from these “paid internships” funded by the SCSEP program, while at the same time helping these individuals update their skills, develop new talents, and regain their confidence.”

To learn more about the SCSEP program, the enrollment process, and eligibility criteria, contact Kristin at 603-206-4400 or [email protected] (for all NH Counties except Belknap and Merrimack)

Contact Louise DeBlois, Program Coordinator for ABLE’s NH North Country SCSEP Satellite Office in Berlin, NH, at 603-752-2600 or [email protected], Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM or click here for more information:

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