Seniors older than 55 in Cowley County who are trying to get back into the workplace might be eligible to participate in a government program through local nonprofits.

A Kansas Workforce Center program, Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), provides opportunities to seniors to expand their work skills while searching for permanent jobs.

“The program is a federally funded grant program that is given to the Kansas State Department of Labor,” said SCSEP Supervisor Gary Brown.

Eligibility guidelines

This program can provide any senior who qualifies with a temporary position in which they can learn new job skills.

Participants can work up to 25 hours a week within the program.

They must be at least 55, be unemployed and fall within 125 percent of the poverty line or below.

“We always tell people: Don’t try to calculate it on your own,” Brown said. “There may be some income coming into the home that we only count a portion of.”

The Department of Labor has formulas that help seniors to calculate whether their income level is within the range of eligibility.

The benefits a senior currently has can affect whether he or she is able to participate in the program.

“They’re the ones that have to monitor that,” Brown said.

Married persons can both be eligible, so long as they fall within the guidelines.

SCSEP training

SCSEP training takes place at participating host organizations, which also must qualify to participate.

“(The training) can run the gambit, depending upon what the (organization) can provide,” Brown said.

The program provides skills training — technically not a job, but a way to build up skills that are rusty or new so the senior can become employable in the current job market.

Whether the senior wants to learn more about customer service, being an office assistant, janitorial work, warehouse work or another skill, he or she can be matched with an organization to help.

“We try to find an environment in a host agency where they can learn that,” Brown said.

Some in SCSEP are looking for full-time employment, while others are only looking for part-time work.

Winfield Workforce Center

The Workforce Center in Winfield can help to determine possible employment areas for the seniors.

It provides testing to calculate aptitudes for certain professions.

“It can give them some ideas as far as direction — things they can do, things they can’t do,” Brown said.

Computer skills often are an obstacle for seniors who are attempting to go back into the workforce.

“It doesn’t take very long being out of the workforce before they’re behind on the computer,” Brown said.

“Even people going into maintenance have to use the computer.”

The program offers some computer training workshops for individuals who are participating.

Host organization requirements

Host organizations must be nonprofit or governmental organizations. For-profit organizations are not eligible to participate.

Seniors are placed with these organizations and, while they are employed, their wages are paid by SCSEP.

The host organizations cannot use the program to replace positions within their organizations, but only can provide training to seniors who participate.

Seniors can be used as supplemental helpers, though.

So a 501(c)3 that has a secretary can train a senior while that individual is helping to accomplish tasks, but the 501(c)3 could not replace that secretary with a senior in the program.

“We have to track what that person is doing and what training they are receiving,” Brown said.

SCSEP contacts

While in the program, the participants and a representative from SCSEP work together to ensure the program is serving its purpose.

“There’s pretty regular contact,” Brown said of the three components.

Training assignments within the host organization can change as time progresses.

An individual who shows promise in an additional area can start helping with other duties if his or her host organization observes that aptitude.

“We can adjust that as we go along,” Brown said.

Participants needed

SCSEP works to ensure that individuals and host organizations can sign up with relative ease.

“There’s quite a bit of paperwork involved with it,” Brown said.

But the program still needs more participants in Cowley County.

There are a limited number of positions available in Cowley County, but only two currently are filled.

Individuals and organizations interested in the program can contact Brown or Chip Reese, the regional manager of the program, by calling (316) 771-6750.