Aging Workforce: Real Stories of Transformation and Resilience – A two-part series from our CEO

August 30, 2023

Part 1: Monthly Jobs Reports and the American Workforce

Beyond Data: Unraveling Workforce Narratives 

Every month the United States Department of Labor (DOL) releases the monthly jobs report. For successive administrations, this report has become a crucial measure to gauge whether their principal campaign promise of providing opportunities for our nation’s middle class actually aligns with its governing outcome: to create quality jobs for the American middle class. The jobs report provides an up-to-date and comprehensive snapshot of our workforce, detailing who’s entering and who is leaving.  

While objective economic data holds its own value, it only provides half the story when devoid of causative connections. The narrative of the American workforce is encapsulated within the aspirations and realities of its labor force. It’s a tale of setbacks and renewals, reflecting our enduring resilience to start anew when needed. 

A Shifting Landscape: New Bedford’s Transition 

During a recent visit to New Bedford, a city in southeastern New England, I witnessed a profound transition taking place. New Bedford exemplifies a modern exurb, loosely connected to the primary economic hub of Boston by proximity, yet distinct enough to forge its own identity. The two cities share a vital tie to Massachusetts’ fortunes. 

For generations, New Bedford’s economy thrived on two key sectors: textiles and fisheries. These industries attracted a wave of immigrants in search of work and a brighter future for their families. New Bedford became a magnet for newcomers from Portugal, Cape Verde, Puerto Rico, and beyond. Though the fishing industry remains robust, textile manufacturing has largely disappeared. In a city of around 100,000 residents, their lives mirror their city’s state of transition. 

I recently met with a group of older job seekers in New Bedford. Each was previously unemployed, and all were now participating in the federal Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) for on-the-job training. Their stories shed light on the program’s impact: 

Susan’s Journey: Susan, a petite African American woman in her mid-60s, embodies the highs and lows of a lifetime of work. She held well-paying jobs, including a 15-year stint as a long-distance operator at AT&T. Despite enjoying this role, she was laid off during corporate restructuring. After ten years at Roebuck, which was later acquired by Adidas, Susan was laid off once more. She found work in retail and hospitality in Las Vegas before returning to New Bedford upon nearing retirement. Susan stands among the fortunate, benefiting from retirement income and social security. For her, the SCSEP stipend supplemented her income, while allowing her to serve her community at the Salvation Army. Her outlook: “We bounce back from setbacks; we adapt and keep moving forward.” 

Kenny’s Path: Kenny, a larger-than-life character, radiates positivity despite his city’s challenges. He operated a carpentry business with his son for over thirty years until his son’s tragic death. Grief and business loss led Kenny into a downward spiral, applying for jobs without success due to a lack of a resume. He stumbled upon the SCSEP program during a visit to a local food program in search of a warm meal. The program recognized his culinary passion, leading him to a role in the very program that once aided him. Kenny’s life is now stable, his SCSEP stipend supplementing his social security. His philosophy: “Once you’re older, finding work gets tough. SCSEP gave me a path back to life.” 

In the vibrant tapestry of our workforce, these individual narratives form the threads that weave together a story of adaptability, strength, and renewal. Through the stories of Susan and Kenny, we glimpse the challenges faced by older job seekers and the transformative power of programs like SCSEP.

As we delve into the intricacies of workforce narratives and the transformative impact of programs like SCSEP, we’re excited to share that next week’s blog will take you even deeper into the heart of the matter. “Part 2: Empowering Older Job Seekers through SCSEP ” will allow you to immerse yourself in more real-life experiences from the field, right here in Bedford. We will shed light on the instrumental role that the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) plays in shaping the lives of older job seekers in this dynamic city. Join us as we continue this enlightening journey, uncovering stories of resilience, triumph, and the invaluable contributions of individuals seeking to redefine their paths in the workforce. Stay tuned for an inspiring exploration into the world of SCSEP and its profound impact on both individuals and the community.