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SHERIDAN — Sheridan College’s Center for Workforce and Community Education has kicked off an initiative to help non-traditional college students test the waters of returning to school.
Mary Sue Vickers, director of the “Plus 50” initiative of the American Association of Community Colleges, said the idea came about because of societal trends.
“People 50 and over are working longer. Some, because they have to and some simply because they want to,” Vickers said. “They’re living longer, they’re healthier, and they don’t want the retirement their parents had. They want to be involved and active.”
Vickers said re-entering the workforce today means older Americans often need to upgrade their skill set to be competitive for jobs.
Director of the Northern Wyoming Community College District Center for Workforce Education Karen St. Clair said it’s not easy for non-traditional students to go back to school when they’ve been away for a long time.
“Stepping back into an environment like a community college can be scary to a number of people,” St. Clair said.
That’s where the “Plus 50” initiative comes in, offering free classes in job-related areas like computers and personnel management.
“Classes offered here are teaser classes to get them some of the foundational skills that gets them more comfortable with the idea of coming back to college,” St. Clair said.
When the student is ready, hopes are they’ll go on to earn credentials that makes them more competitive in the job market.
St. Clair said she hopes to work with local employers to develop job training programs that specifically suit the needs of the local economy.
Sheridan College is one of 100 community colleges nationwide that were chosen via a competitive grant process to test the concept of recruiting senior citizens back to school.
For more information about the free classes offered to seniors and the initiative to help older Americans retrain for new jobs, stop by Sheridan College or call 672-6446, ext. 4502.
First Class for Seniors: Stress 101
The first installment of Sheridan College’s “Plus 50” community education series Tuesday centered on stress management.
Instructor Suzanne Leonard said young employees entering the workforce for the first time as well as older Americans taking on a new job need stress management skills to handle the inevitable tension at work.
“You can’t avoid stress,” she said. “All you can do is learn how to manage it.”
“Everyone feels symptoms of stress. The things stress does to the body is the reason we need to get rid of it,” Leonard said, explaining that “fight or flight” stress hormones are helpful when they’re needed, but an oversupply wreaks havoc on the body.
Leonard presented statistics that illustrate the magnitude of stress’s effects on individuals and in society as a whole. She said some reports show 60-90 percent of doctor visits are stress related, and chronic stress is six times more predictive of cancer and heart disease than smoking or high blood pressure and cholesterol.
In the workplace, stress accounts for 40 percent of turnover and $300 billion in medical costs and lost productivity of American workers annually. It’s also a contributing factor in 60-80 percent of workplace accidents.
Leonard said employers nationwide are starting to recognize the detrimental effects of stressed employees and take measures to counteract the problem.
“A happy, healthy employee is a productive employee,” she said.
In addition to a brief overview of what individual employees can do to manage personal and professional stressors, which include exercise, nutrition and relaxation techniques, Leonard highlighted ways managers can make the workplace more optimal.
“They’ve done a lot of studies and found the people who are unhappiest in their work are not (that way) because they’re too busy but because they don’t feel like they’re valued,” Leonard said.
“A lot of this comes out in people wanting more money. They complain they’re not making enough money, but there’s no amount of money that’s going to make you feel valued. It takes a boss to say ‘you’re doing a good job,’ a pat on the back, or you need to figure out how to value yourself if your boss isn’t going to do it.”
Leonard said in addition to appreciation, workers need a bit of breathing room to get their tasks accomplished.
If you have some say-so in what you’re going to do, you’ll be much happier,” Leonard said. “The best boss is one who tells you what you need to do, but doesn’t tell you how to do it.”
Next month’s free Plus 50 Encore class, which is scheduled for Oct. 8, will focus on how employers can manage the generational differences with employees.