By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY October 18, 2005 Tess Jerome is out to prove that experience works for employers, that is.
The new field operations coordinator for the local branch of Experience Works is ready to get seniors back out on the job scene.
Jerome, who hails from a section of New York even further upstate, wants to spread the word about a program so wonderful it drew her to Sullivan County.
The national organization is dedicated to making senior citizens a vital and active part of the working sector.
Its a win-win situation, Jerome said.
Many seniors struggle on a fixed income. A job gives them some extra cash to cover the bills.
Meanwhile, employers across the country could always use skilled workers.
Experience Works provides training for the seniors to fit into their new jobs, but those seniors already come with prior experience, skills theyve honed over decades.
Theyre mature, stable . . . Jerome said. These mature, dependable workers often end up being a boon to the businesses, more so than the younger, less experienced worker.
Jerome knows both ends of the spectrum.
Shes actually the youngest field operations coordinator in a four-state region.
But shes worked with seniors in different positions who have blown her away.
They take such a sense of pride in a job well done, she explained.
Experience Works has already gotten to work in Sullivan County, but coming into the area, Jerome has seen opportunity for more.
What I found as I came in and got established is that a lot of people dont even know were here, she said. My goal is to get the word out . . . to every nook and cranny.
Many know Experience Works as Green Thumb, a program started under the Johnson administration in 1965 and later renamed.
Through the organizations Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), citizens 55 and older are placed at job-training sites where they are paid to learn the new skills necessary to find a position in todays workforce.
Older workers who never had to use a computer, for example, can get a small stipend while they spend time at on-the-job technology training.
Host agencies generally other non-profits or schools agree to provide training while their new employee is actually paid minimum wage by Experience Works for up to 20 hours each week.
When the training period is up, Jerome said, Experience Works can help the client look for work.
Often, she said, the host ends up hiring their new trainee.
The advantage for employers, she said, is a worker trained on Experience Works dime.
As long as annual family income does not exceed 125 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines, seniors are eligible, and the wages earned dont affect the seniors Social Security benefits, Jerome said.
Jerome, who is now in charge of a six-county region for Experience Works, has set up house in Wurtsboro because she fell in love with Sullivan County.
The people are friendly, theres a lot of room for growth, she said.
Now she wants to make a difference in the lives of her neighbors.
There is opportunity for senior citizens to get back out there into the job market, or get out there for the first time, Jerome explained. We are a stepping stone for them to be able to do that.
Sullivan County residents interested in the program can stop by the Sullivan Works One Stop Center at 50 North Street in Monticello on Wednesdays between 9 a.m. and noon or call Jeromes home office at 888-9902 and leave a message.
She hopes to soon set up another site where people from other sections of the county can sign up without having to travel as far.
Information on the program is also available on the Internet at www.experienceworks.org.