The H.A.V.E. culinary training society originally formed to help people who were homeless or disadvantaged in the Downtown Eastside find employment. But now they’ve found an additional struggle that many applicants have listed as a problem in finding jobs — age.
The program works with its students to ensure they can achieve self-sufficiency. Their success rate is high — 80 per cent of graduates find employment.
But the program’s student counsellor, Glen Lamonte, said he’s noticed that older students aged 50 and older come in with one concern in common. “Older students who come here that’s the one thing they’ll tell you: ‘I’ve looked for work on my own but no one is really interested in someone my age,’” said Lamonte.
Rebecca Chan, an employed graduate of the program, said she faced an age barrier when she was laid off from the accounting job she held for 10 years. At 58, she found she was having no luck at interviews for accounting jobs. She thinks age was part of the reason. “It’s really hard to compete with the youngsters,” she said. “I had lots of work experience but I don’t think they looked at my experience.”
Chan said during one interview at a non-profit organization, the interviewer simply said to her, “You’ve been here so long.”
Unable to find government support for her job search that specialized in overcoming ageism, Chan looked to H.A.V.E., which stands for hope, action, values and ethics, to help her learn new culinary skills and find a job. For her, the program was a huge success. After graduating in May, she’s been employed at two jobs.
Lamonte said barriers faced by a person don’t matter at H.A.V.E.
“Our program is set up for people with multiple barriers. It can be mental health, English as a second language, addiction. Sometimes it can be all of those, including age,” he said.
H.A.V.E. founder Ian Tostenson says acquiring new skills can help with employment, but there needs to be a place senior citizens and older workers can go besides H.A.V.E.
According to Lamonte, the lack of age-specialized government programs is a common concern voiced by students. While Chan’s search was successful, she’s one of those students who wishes there were more programs that focus on ageism.
“I don’t think I’m that old yet. I’m still in good health,” she said. “If you cannot find a job you cannot survive.”