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New Skills (and Words)

From “Older workers face challenges in DC job market” in the Washington Post (Local):

Elected in 2010, DC Mayor Vincent C. Gray campaigned on a pledge to reduce the District’s high unemployment rate. His One City One Hire initiative, announced in September, is intended to link 10,000 D.C. residents with jobs within a year.

So far, though, the program has struggled to reach older workers, who often lose out to younger workers in a city where the jobless rate is 9.9 percent and competition for work can be stiff. [...]

“Any sort of typical competitive disadvantage an older worker might face anywhere . . . are amplified in DC’s highly competitive job market,” said Ed Lazere, executive director for the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, which studies budget and tax issues in the District.

On the whole, younger workers are entering a markedly different workforce than the environment of several decades ago and they “often have the college degrees and technical skills necessary to get a job in today’s economy.” As a case in point: the opening of the article focuses on a 57-year-old woman who was brand new to PowerPoint and Microsoft Word — so she turned to her 11-year-old grandchild for some tutoring,

Her experience then raises the question, what about workers who don’t have a friend or family member who can provide a crash course in these skills? While not universally true, when looking for a new job, many older workers need a new set of skills that are not, overall, too difficult to pick up. But they need the tools to get started. So how can we make those available?

For a few examples of Catalogue nonprofits doing just that: Computer CORE in Alexandria helps low-income adults get the technical and life skills they didn’t learn as kids (including Word and Excel). And Byte Back in DC offers intensive computer literacy courses and employment readiness programs to unemployed individuals. Outside the digital realm, New Course Restaurant and Catering provides 16-week “on the job” training at their breakfast and lunch spot in Judiciary Square to its trainees — three-quarters of whom go on to jobs in the industry.

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