Finding work after 50: Interest high at inaugural job fair in Pittsfield

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PITTSFIELD — Some needed the money. Others were tired of being idle. One was relocating back to the Berkshires, where he previously had been employed.

They were all older than 50 and looking for work.

A total of 171 job seekers poured into the Berkshire Athenaeum on Wednesday to attend the inaugural 50 Plus Job Fair.

"I did expect a lot of people, because there was a lot of interest," said Stephanie Caporale, a business service representative for event co-host BerkshireWorks Career Center. "I think this has to do with the fact that no one can retire at an early age anymore. You need an income to pay your bills."

Representatives of 40 Berkshire firms offered positions in a smattering of professions, including manufacturing and driving jobs. The majority of the employers were in either the health care or social service fields.

At least one job seeker found employment on the spot, Caporale said.

Unlike similar events that feature a much younger crowd, most of the attendees were professionally dressed.

BerkshireWorks, which hosted the event with Elder Services of Berkshire County, Age Friendly Berkshires and AARP Massachusetts, thought a job fair exclusively for older folks might be a good idea, based on the feedback they have received from a number of Berkshire residents in that age group. Forty percent of Berkshire residents older than 50 are either employed or looking for work, said Caporale, citing figures from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"So, we decided to see if there was enough interest," she said. "I sent out an email to thousands of my business contacts and within minutes they were responding. ... I had a ton of responses saying, 'Yes, yes, yes.' "

So many people showed up at one pre-job fair event at BerkshireWorks that it had to be held in two rooms.

Most of the attendees Wednesday had years of experience in several occupations. Several said they were using that previous experience to sell themselves.

Brian Butterworth, 60, served as vice president of sales with Main Street Hospitality Group before leaving for another position in the Boston area. Now, he is looking for a job that contributes to the prosperity of the Berkshires, where he is relocating.

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"I never thought I'd attend a job fair," said Butterworth, who was nattily attired in a suit and tie.

He called the job search market "very encouraging," adding that the networking opportunities he had received from several regional employment organizations "are paying off."

He believes a younger employer could benefit not just from his experience, but his experience in a variety of roles. Butterworth has held positions in sales, customer relations and development.

Lyn Wilson of Adams, who has experience as a librarian, retired a few years ago. But she said a change in her living situation required her to re-enter the workforce.

"I didn't want to work again," she said. "I need the job to make ends meet."

Wilson, who turns 66 on Friday, said she was anxious about the physical limitations that come with aging.

"My knees are bad," she said. "I don't know how long I can kneel or sit down on a job.

"When you're older, you don't feel as good," she said. "When I was younger, I could do anything."

One of the oldest participants, Neil Krebs, 84, of Stephentown, N.Y., holds a doctorate in advanced composite materials from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.

As a structural analyst 50 years ago, Krebs said, he helped design the Patroon Island Bridge, where Interstate 90 crosses the Hudson River in Albany, N.Y.

Krebs lives on a farm that straddles the Massachusetts-New York state line. Why was he looking for work?

"I'm idle and I don't like it," he said. "I'm serious. This is a good opportunity."

Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.


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