It was hard for Jayne Holley to hear the same four words over and over in her networking groups – “Are you still looking?”
Yes, she still was looking. It was fall 2014 and Holley, a Campton Hills resident, had lost her job in September as a patient care coordinator at a physical therapy office in Geneva.
Holley, 60, was getting calls back for interviews, but they wouldn’t result in job offers. That changed after she joined AARP Foundation’s Back to Work 50+ initiative at Elgin Community College.
“It was priceless,” Holley said. “It changed my whole perception of what I needed to do and how I needed to be doing it.”
The AARP initiative is one of several programs available to residents looking for work in Kane County, said Anne Hauca, senior director of the Workforce Transitions Department at the college.
The college’s Workforce Transitions unemployment services sees on average 60 to 80 people a month who are unemployed. Residents of any age who live in the college’s district can meet with an unemployment services coordinator if they have lost their jobs, Hauca said.
“Our job is to help those who are interested and excited for opportunities [to] move forward as quick as they can, and those who are depressed and angry to move as quickly through that stage as possible,” Hauca said.
About 80 percent of residents served in the department are older than age 50, Hauca said. One program for this age group is the Plus 50 Encore Completion Program to help adults 50 and older return to college and train for jobs in high-demand fields. The program also is offered at Waubonsee Community College, whose main campus is located in Sugar Grove.
The AARP initiative offers coaching and tuition-free classes to adults 50 and older who qualify, Hauca said.
Holley said the program allowed her to interview at a higher level and to be better prepared for what to expect in the job market.
She also felt support from her classmates, some of whom also had lost jobs and others who had been out of the workforce for several years to raise children.
“I think it built up camaraderie … to be around other people who are going through the same thing; it’s just helpful,” Holley said.
The department also offers a Job Club, so people looking for work can meet up, as well as drop-in computer workshops to brush up on skills for Microsoft Word or Excel, or to update a LinkedIn profile.
Hauca said residents using the department’s services have been successful finding jobs in health care and office administration.
“Some people come back with a pan of brownies or flowers to thank us for getting them a job,” Hauca said. “That’s not the reality. They got the job; we just gave them the tools to find the job.”
Elgin and Waubonsee community colleges have a series of services under their workforce development banners. The schools offer development courses to build skills and online career training courses, according to their websites.
The community colleges each have an Illinois Small Business Development Center, which offers counseling and training to existing and prospective business owners, the websites state.
A new direction
Students in job transition at Elgin Community College are told to check for any available job openings on campus. Holley found an opening for a community relations specialist and applied.
Holley was looking for full-time work in higher education, but thought she was well suited for the 25-hour-a-week position. Another plus was that she liked the college’s work environment.
The college responded in kind, and Holley’s first day was June 1 as a specialist in the college’s Community and Legislative Affairs Department.
“That means a lot when you have to get up every day and go to a job,” Holley said. “I’m in a good place, and I’m very grateful.”
Do-over.me is a nonprofit organization that helps people with any transition in their life, including a job loss. The organization provided services to more than 100 adults since it was founded in March 2014, said Cynthia Wade, its founder, board president and managing director.
The organization, located at 1141 Commerce Drive in Geneva, offers consultations, classes and workshops either on a sliding scale or free to those who qualify for scholarships, Wade said.
One of its offerings unique to the area is a nonperformance improv class.
The class is not about entertaining, and no experience is required, Wade said.
Improvisation helps people gain confidence in different situations and can improve communication in teams, Wade said. One class consists of a series of improv practice games that involve staying in the moment and thinking of responses on the fly.
Improvisational skills are getting lots of praise for those in the working world, especially those in sales jobs, Wade said.
“People in this area no longer have to leave the county to go to the Community Career Center in Naperville or CareerPlace in Barrington,” Wade said during a June 1 presentation to the St. Charles City Council. “We have something right here that’s going to be able to serve their needs.”