Free classes can help Boomers looking for work

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Baby Boom generation — the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 — is full of people who are looking for jobs, just like those in Generations X and Y.

Some of those in the 50-plus range have lost their jobs due to downsizing. Others have found they cannot afford retirement or just don’t like it.

Still others have been out of the work force due to illness and wish to re-enter. Some may be looking for a midlife job change.

Whatever the reason, they need to dust off their résumés and learn new strategies for the changing job market.

With the youngest of the Boomers turning 50 this year, the BridgeValley Community and Technical College, 2001 Union Carbide Drive, South Charleston, is doing its part to help Baby Boomers get back to work with a series of free workshops and classes called “Back to Work 50+.”

One participant experienced a job layoff, and it had been years since she had updated her résumé or filled out a job application.

“I was stumped when I got laid off. I started going to some of the 50-plus classes and I got a job with the Postal Service through what I learned in the program. Then I got a job with the state. I can’t say enough good about it,” said Vicki Parsons.

“Robin Bowman, with AARP, and Cynthia Woodworth, with BridgeValley, were excellent. I benefited so much from the services offered. It was a lifesaver. I just wish more people would take advantage of it,” she added.

Woodworth is the program coordinator for Workforce at BridgeValley CTC. At 9 a.m. on the first Wednesday of every month except December, anyone 50 years or older may register to attend a free information workshop.

“Fifty-plus workers have assets employers need: a strong work ethic, reliability, good judgment, strong interpersonal and communication skills. We have the program through a grant funded through AARP [formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons] and Walmart. It’s of great value for job seekers to have a support group and get great information too,” Woodworth said.

Cynthia Hastings, a recent participant in the workshop, said it was beneficial in her efforts to re-enter the job market. “It gave me up-to-date information, websites that over-50 persons could use to find a job, and taught me how to tailor my résumé,” she said.

“I am now working part time. It has given me a chance to ease back into the work force,” she added.

Since completing the workshop, Hastings has registered to take a class at BridgeValley as a medical administration assistant and certified electronic health records specialist.

“The main thing I got out of the classes was hope. Cynthia Woodworth made me feel there is something out there for me. You’re not dead at 50. Don’t be discouraged, because there is something for you out there, and they will help you find your niche,” Hastings said.

During the nearly three-hour workshop, participants acquire knowledge about seven smart strategies for job seekers over age 50.

They learn how to update their personal marketing tools and networking strategies, how to target their job search on in-demand jobs, identify and pursue short-term training needs and apply to work with a “BTW 50+” coach.

Following the introductory workshop, participants can apply for free group coaching sessions on Tuesday afternoons. They include coaching sessions on assessing skills, marketing skills, job-landing strategies and interviewing techniques.

Job seekers also learn about additional free services offered at Goodwill Industries of Kanawha Valley, 215 Virginia St. W., every Wednesday at 1 p.m.

“There are tons of classes, including computer skills classes, available that are self-paced and free on,” said Monica Tharp, a job placement specialist with Goodwill.

Tharp said Goodwill offers a free six-week Work Readiness Program that helps people find and keep employment. They also offer free classes on basic computers, Internet, email, online job searches and application assistance.

The BTW 50+ program has a Job Club that meets on the last Friday of every month, when job seekers will listen to a guest speaker, network with other participants and encourage one another during their job search.

“We are all concerned with the challenges facing unemployed older workers and want to be part of effective solutions,” Woodworth said.

She said one of the problems older job seekers have is feeling “out of the loop” when re-entering the job market after leaving a longtime job or a period of unemployment. She said the classes are a great way to get “in the loop,” and the sooner the 50-plus job seeker focuses on getting back to work, the better.

For additional information about Back to Work 50+, call AARP at 888-227-7669 or visit Woodworth may be reached at 304-205-6690 or by email at

For additional information about the back-to-work services offered at Goodwill, call Tharp at 304-346-0811 or email

Reach Judy E. Hamilton at, 304-348-1230 or follow @JudyEHamilton on Twitter.

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