By Carley Dangona
WEST SPRINGFIELD – The West Springfield Council on Aging (COA) seeks to start a new trend by hosting its first ever job fair for workers age 50 and older in May.
The job fair will take place on May 19 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the West Springfield Senior Center, 128 Park St., and will feature more than 30 companies seeking employees. The event is open to job seekers in West Springfield and surrounding towns. Employers for the fair are still being accepted.
“The fair will be the first ever in this area,” Laurie Cassidy, COA executive director, said. “We want to be innovators.” She stated that a variety of companies will attend the event to provide options for job seekers.
A seminar for attendees will take place on May 15 at 12:30 p.m. Marcia Eagleson, Career assistant for Springfield College, will discuss topics such as effective resumes, interview preparation and tips for attending the job fair. Those interested in attending the workshop should call the center at 263-3264.
“People are no longer looking at the ‘Help Wanted’ ads in the Sunday paper,” James Leyden, COA deputy director, said.
Both Cassidy and Leyden discussed the recent trend of people re-entering or continuing in the work force who are in their fifties or older.
“There are so many outside forces that are nibbling at the nest egg,” Cassidy said.
“People who retire early think they have enough money,” Leyden said, adding that increasing costs of gas, groceries, prescriptions and housing become too great for those on a fixed income.
Cassidy explained that in recent months there has been an increased volume in calls from older job seekers and an increased amount of use of the center’s computers to search for jobs.
She said that many companies are downsizing, restructuring, or outsourcing, leading to job losses. Those out of work have become volunteers at the facility because they want to spend their time productively while they seek new employment.
She said the trends are what prompted the job fair. May is Older Americans Month and typically, the COA hosts a health fair or financial planning sessions, but this year the staff wanted to try something new in response to the increased employment need of its patrons.
“Older adults have skills, talent, desire and they are loyal. We know that there’s a huge amount of talent in this and the surrounding communities,” Cassidy said.
Sometimes, older workers face the stigma of ageism, Cassidy said
Leyden stated that hiring younger workers is appealing to some employers because they have less experience, making them “easier to groom” and affordable since their pay rate does not have to reflect decades of experience.
The COA has reached out to surrounding senior centers, colleges and organizations such as CareerPoint and Futureworks to advertise the fair and to include a variety of employers.
In return for participating, each employer was asked to donate a $25 gift card for food, gas, or clothing purchases to help jobseekers get back on their feet, Cassidy said.