Program helps seniors develop new skills

Posted: Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Jim has worked most of his life as a carpenter and hopes to get into a new career that is less physical. Sue worked for years in an office, using typewriters and dial telephones; after raising a family, she now wants to go back to work. Fred depended on the timber industry for his livelihood, but knows he'll need training in a new line of work. Mary worked as a nurse's aide for 30 years and fears risking injury as she gets older. These are typical scenarios of trainees involved in the MASST program.

MASST stands for "Mature Alaskans Seeking Skills Training." Previously known as SCSEP or the Title V program, MASST is a training program for individuals age 55 and older who meet specific income criteria. The program assists mature Alaskans with skills training, job search and placement into subsidized employment.

Throughout Southeast Alaska, MASST is administered by SERRC, Alaska's educational recourse center, located at the Juneau Adult Education Center downtown. SERRC was awarded the MASST grant by the Alaska Commission on Aging in December, 2002. Nancy Duhaime, SERRC Program Coordinator for MASST, explains, "I like working with people over 55. I like the work ethic that mature Alaskans have - they're dependable, reliable, enjoy working and being productive persons in society."

Duhaime defines the three main goals of the MASST program: 1) to promote part time training opportunities, 2) to enhance abilities, skills, and aptitudes which increase one's opportunities for employment; 3) to change negative attitudes and stereotypes about older individuals through demonstrated success. Non-profit employers or public agencies interested in serving as training sites are encouraged to give Duhaime a call at 586-5718. To date, Bartlett Regional Hospital, the Alaska Commission on Aging, Alaska Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Catholic Community Services and SERRC are host sites for MASST trainees in Juneau.

Once Duhaime determines that someone is eligible for MASST, she meets with them, discusses their employment goals, whether they're looking for full-time or part-time work, what kind of work they've done in the past and what they'd like to do in the future. The trainee is placed at a host site to work 20 hours a week, up to 11 months and receives a training wage of $7.15 per hour.

In addition to placement at a training site, a variety of training classes are available through SERRC's Adult Education Enter. GED preparation and testing, citizenship classes, English as a Second Language, reading, writing, math, skills assistance and basic computer training are among the services offered.

"The most challenging thing these days for many older Alaskans is the computer," said Duhaime. "I'd say that our computer skills training is probably the number one thing we have to offer people." The computer classes include the basics of using a computer, Microsoft Word for typing letters, Excel for accounting applications, and Power Point for making presentations.

As part of the MASST program, the SERRC staff also assists mature Alaskans with weekly job search, resume writing and interview skills. Duhaime also coordinates training and job opportunities with the Juneau Job Center. Persons interested in learning more about MASST are invited to contact Nancy Duhaime at 586-5718 for further information.

Marianne Mills oversees senior citizen nutrition and transportation programs in Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, and Yakutat as a staff member of Southeast Senior Services, a program of Catholic Community Service. CCS assists all persons regardless of their faith.

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