Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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January 1, 2013

Sharing the knowledge

Corsicana — For Francie Yates, 78, Experience Works has made a tremendous difference in her life. Experience Works is an agency that teaches new job skills to mature workers,

“I signed up because my husband died and I needed to be gainfully employed and I needed to be with other people,” Yates explained. In her first assignment, Yates learned to use computers, filing, receptionist and screening of applicants for the Social Security Administration.

“I did all the filing and opened all the mail, stamped it and delivered it, they trained me on a lot of things,” Yates said.

Her second assignment was at Mosaic, a non-profit agency that provides services to the mentally challenged, and there Yates got more training and then was hired as a permanent member of the staff.

“Everywhere I’ve been people have been so very kind to me, and in training when I’d make mistakes — I always assume that if the world ends it will be my fault — but everybody has been so kind to me,” she said.

Last year, when the federal government cut the budget for Experience Works, the agency couldn’t enroll any new trainees, but in 2013 they’re looking for some new applicants, according to Doris Northcutt, employment training coordinator.

“We’re not a jobs program, we’re a training program,” Northcutt explained. “They take all kinds of courses, like teamwork, interpersonal skills, Word, Excel, we’ve got over 50 courses we teach them.”

Not everyone can be placed with Experience Works, though. Applicants must be over 55 years of age, low-income, and they have to want to work, but patient enough to be willing to be trained.

“A lot of people don’t qualify,” Northcutt said. “A lot of them are just trying to get quick income, and we’re not about that. We want to take the time to train them. They have to want to work.”

Nation-wide, Experience Works has over 200,000 people in the program. The training takes about a year, typically, and during that time the trainees are paid minimum wage for 20 hours a week working for a non–profit agency, school, or government.

About five or six people can be added to the Navarro County program in the coming year, and interviews will be scheduled in January. Once applicants are accepted into the program, they will be interviewed to see what they want to learn and where they want to work, Northcutt said.

“A lot of them are coming out of manufacturing, we almost need to set them a new career. I’ve got truck drivers who can’t crawl up and down off trucks anymore,” Northcutt said. “We’ll place them out so long as it’s a 501(c)3. Any government agency, school or non-profit agency. I’ve got United Way, Boys and Girls Club, Salvation Army, Family Services, I’ve got tons of host sites, any child care facility, Twilight Home, but I need to get some participants in here to talk with.”

Clients have been put to work in offices, health care, child care, and maintenance. “We don’t keep anyone in one place very long,” Northcutt pointed out. “We train them upwards and upwards and upwards. We just have to be sure they don’t think it’s a job. It’s not a jobs program, it’s a training program.”

Having the right attitude is also crucial, Yates said.

“Wherever there was something to be done that I was capable of doing, I did it, and I loved it,” she said. “I guess I’m eager. To me it was a wonderful experience. I was thrilled when I got this real job.”

“For some of them, it’s just a way to get out of the home, but there’s been some really great people who have come from Experience Works,” Yates said.

To apply for Experience Works, call Doris Northcutt at (903)874-8276.

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “soundoff” to this article? Email: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com

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