The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

June 25, 2008

Older worker struggles with job scarcity

By CARL E. FEATHER - Lifestyle Editor - cfeather@starbeacon.com

Finding a job in Ashtabula County can be tough; being 64 and finding a job is nearly impossible.

That’s the experience of John Finkbeiner, who returned to Ashtabula last year after years of working in Virginia and around the country as an industrial hygienist.

Finkbeiner has an impressive, versatile skills set that includes heavy-machinery operation, electrical work, management, human resources and carpentry. He has studied at Wright State and the universities of Cincinnati and Toledo, but has not completed a degree.

He has sent out nearly 200 resumes and responded to every ad in the newspaper that seemed a good match for his skills. He has also registered at Job Source and with temporary employment agencies.

Thus far, the best he’s been able to find is driving a taxi for 15 cents a mile.

“I’m making less than a quarter of what I used to make,” says Finkbeiner, who earned more than $65,000 annually while working in the Springfield/ Alexandria area of northern Virginia.

The congestion and fast pace in the Washington, D.C., suburbs didn’t suit Finkbeiner, who returned to his former hometown and struck up a relationship with a woman here. It’s that relationship, and the hope of being able to purchase property with some land on which to store his tractor collection and large accumulation of tools, that keeps him from moving on.

Thus far, he has encountered nothing but frustration in his effort to land a job here.

“I’ve been all over, asking for a job,” he says. “I followed every lead in the paper. At Job Source, they told me I just had to accept a job that pays minimum wage because that’s all there is here.”

He says Job Source tried to enroll him in seminars on preparing resumes and interviewing.

“They need a seminar down there on how to live on minimum wage,” he says.

Finkbeiner also tried finding work in the Columbus market. His son lives there, and Finkbeiner stayed with him while he looked for work. He discovered things are not much better there, especially for someone within two years of retirement.

Indeed, Finkbeiner says he’s finding incredible competition for jobs. People who hold master’s and doctoral degrees are getting jobs that really don’t require that kind of education. He responded to an ad for a job in Mentor, only to find out there were 212 applicants.

“There is no way I can compete for those kinds of jobs and win,” he says.

He took the taxi job just to have something to do and generate a little income, but the hours are grueling.

“I worked 70 hours in one week with no overtime,” he says. “I’ll work up to 15 hours a day.”

He worries about those kind of hours taking their toll on his health and the safety of the passengers he hauls. The work is structured so he’s always on call and he can end up getting only two hours of sleep before he’s put back on the road.

“This is the kind of job I can get,” he says. “I can’t find work, (but) I’m willing to do anything.”