An employment fair for seniors in Baltimore County on Thursday drew several hundred job seekers, many of them recently laid off after years with the same company. Most were in their 50s and early 60s, too young for Social Security benefits and still critically in need of work.
"I absolutely am looking for a job," said Kathy Metcalf of Catonsville, a human resources worker who was laid off a year ago after 24 years on the job. "I may be an aging baby boomer, but I still have a son in college."
The Rehirement Job Fair, sponsored by Baltimore County Department of Aging at the Timonium fairgrounds, featured several dozen employers and offered job seekers seminars and technology tips.
Employers should tap into the older worker pool, said Muriel Ashley of Freeland, who lost her insurance job during a reduction in force four months ago.
"We have a stronger work ethic than Gen-Xers and we want to continue working," she said.
Elizabeth Parkinson, a recruiter for the contractor at the Baltimore Data Capture Center, which is handling census work, said she came to the fair to seek older workers.
"They are the best," she said from a booth surrounded by possible applicants. "In the 2000 census, we found seniors to be the most skilled and the most reliable."
Staff from the Community College of Baltimore County offered coaching sessions with career counselors, job-search plans and feedback on resumes. One branch of the college shares space with the county's work force center in Hunt Valley and sees daily "how many older people still want to be working and how many are re-entering the work force," said Pete Naron, a career counselor.
Barbara Brown, 57, of Brooklyn waited for a turn with a job coach. Rather than being called a senior, she prefers "mature, seasoned professionals," she said.
"Older workers need to be targeted," she said. "We have a lot to offer and we are not giving up."
Patti Madigan, the department's senior employment and housing services manager, echoed that message and is urging employers to consider older workers.
"We have employers here who are actively seeking employees," Madigan said. "They are not here just collecting resumes."
For Bob Allen, 61, of Eldersburg, the job fair was a "first time out" after he was laid off from a newspaper job. "I am surprised that there are really jobs available here," he said. "This is not just cheerleading."
Tom Ferriell, 64, has been retired for three years but thought he would "test the waters" at the job fair. He would like "something to keep me busy and helping people," he said. Howard Kershner, general sales manager for The Employment Guide, manned a booth. He passed out copies of the guide and offered to e-mail job alerts.
Mary Rachinskas, 70, was browsing, not seriously looking for a job but open to a possible part-time position.
"So many people here were laid off after years with a company," said Rachinskas, a Mays Chapel resident, retired after 37 years with Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. "Companies used to keep you from cradle to grave. They were loyal and you were loyal to them. That does not happen anymore."