Sandra Wagner can’t count the number of people she’s helped find new jobs and new lives in her 20 years with AARP Foundation’s Senior Community Services Employment Program (SCSEP).
“Hundreds and hundreds,” she says. And now, starting her 21st year as director of Colorado’s SCSEP program, she is hoping to recruit more people on a path to employment success.
Operating for more than 50 years, SCSEP is the nation's oldest program to help low-income, unemployed individuals aged 55 and older find work. The program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
When participants enter the program, SCSEP starts with an assessment of their work, education and training background. Then, they are matched with an employment specialist. That specialist will stay with them throughout the program, Wagner said, and help them put together their individual employment plan. If the plan includes new skills training, SCSEP will help link participants to the right training source.
Wagner and her team then match these job seekers with local nonprofits and public agencies so they can increase skills and build self-confidence, while earning a modest income. Their SCSEP experience can lead to permanent employment.
Wagner said SCSEP offers some 50 different work settings where participants work 20 hours per week for minimum wage. Many are hired permanently by their host agencies after completing the program.
“Our agencies so love our people,” Wagner said. “We’ve never had anyone work for an employer that didn’t work out.”
Wagner started her own work career in her father’s haberdashery store in Mississippi. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work, and to work with seniors as director of assisted living centers and Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). Now in her seventies, she continues to encourage more seniors to get into the work world.
Getting started with SCSEP just takes a phone call to 720-946-2901 and starting an application. Participants must be more than 50 years old, meet federal low-income guidelines, and live in Adams, Arapahoe, Denver or El Paso counties. More information on SCSEP is available online. Click here.
_Carol Lynn Tiegs is an AARP volunteer and a Colorado writer