January 26, 2018
Capitol Hill Briefing: Meeting the Employment Needs of Unemployed Older Americans
By: Tyrell Ma'ae

The National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA), in partnership with several other national organizations who help older adults find jobs, hosted a Capitol Hill Briefing on January 19, 2018, to introduce the U.S. Department of Labor’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP).

SCSEP is the only federal job training program focused exclusively on helping low-income older Americans return to the workforce, empowering them to improve their financial well-being.

Older Americans—who represent a growing part of the U.S. labor force—struggle to find jobs after becoming unemployed. Recognizing the unique employment needs of older adults, Congress created SCSEP.

The briefing was an opportunity to review findings from the Urban Institute’s white paper, The Role of SCSEP in Workforce Training, that found SCSEP is overwhelmingly successful in helping older adults with significant employment barriers find jobs, representing a strong return on the federal investment. The briefing also featured first-person accounts from a former SCSEP participant, a local host agency official, and a business representative who all shared the value of the program within our local communities. SCSEP is available in 56 states and territories.

In the past year, NAPCA served over 1,600 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) older workers and partnered with 550 local nonprofits and/or government agencies in seven states, contributing $1.33M of in-kind support back into the communities. NAPCA SCSEP participants performed 740,000 hours of community service, valued at over $17.8M.

A current SCSEP participant in Los Angeles, CA told us “Employment is empowerment! NAPCA SCSEP has given me the opportunity to continue to work and has allowed me to have a purpose in my senior years.”

The success of the program is further highlighted in Ms. Fan Mei Tan’s story below:

Ms. Fan Mei Tan came to the United States in 2010 at the age of 63 through the sponsorship of her brother. Prior to moving to Houston, she had worked successfully as an accountant in China. Now living in Houston, she faced many challenges: she was a senior, she spoke no English, and she had no job. She was relying on her brother for financial support as she tried to navigate the American system.

With her brother’s help, she was able to move into a senior apartment complex and begin living independently. However, she was still unable to financially support herself. Her friends told her about a program at Chinese Community Center (CCC) – a NAPCA community partner – that assisted seniors with job training. With some encouragement, Ms. Tan attended a SCSEP information session at CCC in January 2013. There she learned more about the program and was eager to enroll. By the following month, Ms. Tan was enrolled into SCSEP and started her first assignment as a clothes setter at a thrift shop.

After a year, Ms. Tan transferred to a different host agency, which is where she found her place. She began working as a library assistant at the Bao Shan Jing Library of the Chinese Civic Center. There she began to learn a multitude of skills: library management, computer, and customer service. At the completion of her training, she was hired by the Chinese Civic Center as a part-time librarian.

With the support of the SCSEP project staff, she was able to gain valuable, new skills that helped her attain a job to support herself. In addition, during her time with SCSEP, she became eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and was able to get assistance from project staff with the application. Now as a librarian, she has learned more about the U.S. and has assimilated into American culture.

For more information about NAPCA SCSEP, please contact us at 206-624-1221.



The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.