At 57, Bernard Stump was looking for a job for the first time in his adult life.
He had begun working at Kanouse Kards and Kandy right out of high school while he attended Ashland Community College.
By July 1982, Stump had done every job in the shop and the owners, Fred and Velma Kanouse, were ready to retire, so he bought the store and changed the name to Stump’s Hallmark.
As the economy and the comsumer landscape changed, Stump found his business in decline and, with his mother’s health failing, he closed the business in September 2010 and faced a huge career change.
“It was the only job I ever had,” he said of his card and gift shop. He planned to take some time off and think about what he wanted to to.
In the mean time, friends advised him to seek the help of Southwestern Commmunity Action Council, a program to help mature workers enter or re-enter the work force.
“I knew I didn’t have the skills or the training,” he said, noting he had never used a computer; the only equipment he used in the show were a cash register, and adding machine and a credit card reader. “Lack of computer skills was my downfall.”
Stump said he attended a training session at which he learned the basics of computer use after about four hours of working with a computer expert.
“What she taught me was enough basic stuff that I could get done what I needed to get done,” he said, meaning job applications. He said he applied for about eight jobs, only one of which required an application on paper; the others required applications be filled out online.
Meanwhile Southwest placed him in a job working at the Jesse Stuart Foundation, which was next door to his old business and he was already friendly with many of the employees. His assignment was to fill book orders by preparing the books for shipping and logging his work on the computer.
It wasn’t long, though, until his job search yielded results. He was hired as a sales associate with JC Penney in May 2011.
Working for someone else and doing work that’s different was a big transition for Stump, but he has done well, Benton F. Clark, employment speciality with Southwestern, said.
“He did very well on the program and he seems to be very happy in what he’s doing now,” he said. “He was a little skiddish, he’d worked the same job for so long he had not put himself out there, so this was all a new experience to him.
The agency’s help with creating a resume and developing computer skills helped him figure out what he needed to do and where he could go and be comfortable, Clark said.
Computer skills were Stump’s biggest need, he said, as is the case with most of their clients, because most potential employers expect online application, but he said the agency also offers tips on interviewing, dressing for interviews and filling out a variety of paperwork.
Stump, like most mature workers, had a lot to offer, Clark said.
“Along with experience, in most cases, (older workers’) work ethic is so much better than the younger ones,” Clark said. “They want to work. They feel like they’re qualified and most of them have worked all their lives, so they’re going to show up and be on time and work while they’re there. They’re more reliable and they can pass the drug test.”
Stump said he enjoyed working at the Jesse Stuart Foundation but had to leave that position when he got the job at Penney. However, in August 2011 the foundation called and offered him part-time work, and he accepted.
“I’m glad to be on my feet and getting to work every day,” he said. “I feel blessed to have two jobs and be earning a living and be happy with both jobs.
“Southwestern gave me the beginning and I encourage anyone in transtition to check out the program,” he said.
Southwestern Community Action Council assists those 55 and older who need a job. The office is at 1645 Winchester Ave. For more information, call (606) 329-8057 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
LEE WARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2661.