Seniors who suddenly find themselves out of work should not think they have nothing left to offer. There are many opportunities for work or for retraining for a new career for those 55 and older, if one knows where to look, said people who work with seniors and displaced workers on a daily basis.

Seniors who suddenly find themselves out of work should not think they have nothing left to offer.


There are many opportunities for work or for retraining for a new career for those 55 and older, if one knows where to look, said people who work with seniors and displaced workers on a daily basis.


"It can be devastating to suddenly lose a job, especially if it's a job you've been doing for many years. But people should not despair. Just look for resources that can help. Even in difficult times there are opportunities out there," said Heather Underwood, program coordinator for the AARP in Chicago.


"We are also trying to let employers know the value that the older, experienced workers can bring to a workplace," said Underwood, a Peoria native.


She and others said seniors have several places to call, including the AARP, the Central Illinois Agency on Aging, Experience Works or the city of Peoria's Workforce Development office.


"We think people should know there are always opportunities out there and, frankly, we're encouraged that so many are taking advantage of those opportunities," said Jennifer Brackney, division manager for the city's Workforce Development Department.


"We also see a lot of people who retired early and are looking for a second career. Some of them were offered early retirement in place of a layoff so they are basically in the same boat; not ready to quit working but needing new skills. We can help and so can others," she said.


Experience Works is a program specifically geared to those over the age of 55 who need to find work or get trained in new skills, such as computers and technology, so they can more easily find a new jobs.


The local office of Experience Works has seen an increase in the number of clients it serves in the last six months or so and has seen another influx since receiving stimulus funding for that training, said Paulette Ogle, assistant to the office coordinator.


"A lot of the increase is because of the economy but we're also seeing people who have been out of the workplace for a while and, for whatever reason, need to work again," she said.


"We've had a very high success rate" in placing clients in jobs in the three-county area - Peoria, Tazewell and Fulton counties - served by the Peoria office, Ogle said.


Some placements have been at the city's Workforce Development office and resource center, said Brackney.


"It works well for us because we see a lot of people who want to take advantage of retraining opportunities now so they can be ready to go when the economy has an upturn and companies start hiring again," she said.


AARP, said Underwood, goes beyond teaching workplace skills and has programs for teaching the next step - how to write or update a resume and how to prepare for an interview, for example.


Another program that the agency touts is a Work Search program that monitors the skills of its clients and matches them with the needs of employers. For that program, AARP has an agreement with retirementjobs.com.


Paul Gordon can be reached at (309) 686-3288 or pgordon@pjstar.com.