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Program trains seniors to re-enter work force


Tim Pratt



STARKVILLE -- Experience Works is looking for more than two dozen senior citizens to begin on-the-job training programs -- and possibly find gainful employment -- at locations around the Golden Triangle.  


The national organization, which has offices in Columbus and Starkville, has 30 openings for individuals who are 55 and older to be placed in local on-the-job training programs, said Mangle Shanks, field operations coordinator for the Columbus and Starkville offices.  


Experience Works only places seniors in on-the-job training programs at nonprofit organizations and government entities, where participants develop skills to help them find jobs later. The Experience Works organization pays minimum wage to those seniors for up to 20 hours of training per week with funds provided by the U.S. Department of labor, so the host agency doesn''t incur any cost.  


Experience Works then tries to find jobs for those seniors when the training program is complete, although some end up getting hired at the agencies where they trained. The length of the training programs vary, Shanks said. 


"It ends up being a win-win situation," Shanks said. "The government agencies and nonprofits get free labor and the participants get free training." 


Not all seniors qualify for the Experience Works training programs. Participants must go through a screening process to determine, among other things, whether he or she meets U.S. Department of Labor standards. Those guidelines vary for each potential particpant depending on a number of factors, including income and household size.  


"There are a lot of variables," Shanks said. "We will just screen them and find out if they qualify." 


Experience Works formed in 1965 under the name "Green Thumb." The group originally was designed to help retired, low-income farmers supplement their income by working in their communities. 


Eventually, Green Thumb evolved into Experience Works and has spread to all 50 states and Puerto Rico. The senior community service employment program has remained the organization''s most popular as more than 23,000 seniors nationwide have used the service. 


The organization is always taking applications from seniors interested in the program, Shanks said, and from nonprofits and government agencies looking for part-time help. 


"If there are any employers looking to hire dependable workers, they can come to us, as well," Shanks said. 


For more information on Experience Works, contact the Starkville office at 662-324-9005, or the Columbus office at 662-328-2477. Visit the Web site at




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