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OH Seniors Taking Advantage of Hiring Program

When retired school principal Ethel Percy Andrus founded what became AARP in 1958, it grew out of her efforts to provide retired teachers with affordable health care. It's unlikely then her vision included people like Ron Koontz. The Pickerington resident lost jobs six or seven times in his career in architectural engineering…a business he calls cyclical. Over the years, Koontz also took responsibility for sick and aging parents and a stepmother.

"Those kinds of responsibilities plus trying to make a living, if you will, is quite challenging."

After his own consulting business failed to catch on, 57-year old Koontz went to AARP's Senior Employment Program for job placement. Through the program Job seekers are placed at a non- profit to hone or develop new work skills. Koontz was placed at the National barber Museum in Canal Winchester as an archivist.

"If you asked me a couple of years ago, 'you're gonna be in a museum, and I'm like "Who me?"' But it was amazing how the needs of the National Barber Museum matched my skill set and my work experience perfectly, hand in glove."

Jan Aselin directs AARP's Senior Employment program on Main Street in Whitehall. She says professionals like Koontz sometimes face a difficult reality after being laid off from a job in their chosen field.

"It's one of the most heartbreaking things that we face as trying to point them in another career pathway. And, unfortunately, because of the age factor they're not going to go into a job even if it's similar to what they did at the same salary."

Applicants must be over 55, unemployed and low-income.

Aselin says Koontz and other workers are paid a training wage of between and and 15 dollars an hour, depending on the difficulty of the job. She says they can stay in their assignments for four years while they look for a permanent position.

That arrangement worked out well for Marla Caslin. Caslin became unemployed after years of steady jobs.

"I worked for the state for fifteen years as a word processing specialist. I worked for Columbia Gas in the accounts payable office. Prior to the accounts payable department I was in customer service. I've done customer service for many years."

But she suddenly found it impossible to find a job. Caslin entered the Senior employment program at the age of sixty-two.

"What made it so difficult for you to find a job before you went to AARP."

"Well, I'm glad you asked that question because I wanted to know the same thing because I'd always been blessed with jobs. And then it dawned on me, well it could be my age."

Caslin's age posed no problem for Jan Aselin. She and Caslin immediately hit it off. Caslin was placed in Aselin's office to train and improve her job skills.
After four years, Caslin found permanent work as a job placement specialist at the Homeless Family Shelter at the YMCA.

"What I do is to provide resources, job leads, help them with resume cover letters, you know, just assess their skill set to see what types of jobs they could qualify for and help them obtain employment."

Jan Aselin calls Marla Caslin her success story.

But for all the successes like Caslin and Ron Koontz, Aselin admits there are people who are difficult to place.

"Ex-offenders. This is a tough, tough population to find employment. People, who for whatever reason, are disadvantaged and they don't even have GED's. You can't get a job if you don't have a GED."

That doesn't mean people can't get placed in a job. Aselin says it may just take more work. But she says for people who want to work there are no barriers too difficult or too high to overcome.

"You could be a hundred years old. I've got two people who are in their eighties and they're the zippiest, hard working women you've ever seen in your life. And they have language like sailors but I'm telling you they work."

Rick Jackson is a senior host and producer at Ideastream Public Media. He hosts the "Sound of Ideas" on WKSU and "NewsDepth" on WVIZ.