Edwin Weeks worked on dairy farms for more than 30 years until 11 years ago, when he decided to make a change.
He worked construction, did home remodeling and was an all-around handyman.
“I’ve got a little bit of experience in a lot of different things, because farming is about electrical-, plumbing-, veterinarian-type work, mechanical,” he said.
At 51, Weeks is now seeking more stable employment as a general laborer. He has learned that landing a job nowadays requires some preparation — namely, developing a resume, learning how conduct yourself in an interview and very importantly, acquiring some computer skills.
He heard about the Business & Career Center at Waterville Public Library, which offers free help in all these things, and stopped in. Over time, he got help writing a resume, listened to a panel of business people talk about what they look for in job applicants and worked one-on-one with a human resources officer to learn how to interview.
His first mock interview was a disaster, he said, but with a lot of help — and practice — he became proficient.
“I’m glad I did it,” he said of using the center’s services. “It was very helpful. It’s something I think a lot of people would like and certainly enjoy doing if they can get into it. To me, it really did present some valuable information that I didn’t know. If anybody needs the help, this is the place to come.”
Weeks was sitting Wednesday at a laptop in the Colby Room on the library’s ground floor. He was placing his resume on Google documents, which would allow him to access it through his Google account.
Sitting to his left was Laton Edwards, who teaches typing and computer skills two days a week at the career center and three nights at Waterville Area Adult Education.
Edwards, 71, knows how valuable the career center is to job seekers, having benefited from it himself.
He owned and operated funeral homes for 40 years and had used computers since 1980 to help run his business. He eventually left the profession, was an officer manager for four years, got laid off and at age 69, earned an associate degree from Kennebec Valley Community College. He majored in computer science, with an emphasis on computer assisted design.
Edwards tutored KVCC students in trigonometry for a few semesters and decided he loved teaching. He sought help from the career center with his job search, volunteered to teach computer skills there, and wound up becoming a teacher himself when an instructor left.
“It’s called networking,” he said. “It’s just being in the right place at the right time, knowing the right people. It got me where I am.”
Anyone can drop in for free computer help from 4-5 p.m. Wednesdays and 1:30-2:30 p.m. Saturdays.
He will teach basic typing from 3–4 p.m. this Wednesday and Wednesday, Sept. 25, and 12:30–1:30 p.m. Saturday and Saturday, Sept. 28.
The career center offers all sorts of other free labs in areas such as resume writing, job seeking for veterans, college planning, business workshops and Job Corps. The times and places are listed on the library’s website under Business & Careers at watervillelibrary.org.
“This is free to anybody that walks through the door, and the more people that walk through the door, the better we like it,” Edwards said.
A mild-mannered man with a ready smile, Edwards clearly loves his job. He especially likes to encourage job seekers that there is hope. He serves as a good example, having earned a college degree later in life.
“If I can do it at 69, certainly other people can do it at a younger age,” he said.
As he speaks, Don Martineau, of Waterville, enters the cool, carpeted room, where 11 computers wait on a shelf to be used.
Martineau, 79, teaches high pressure boiler operation and steam engineering classes at KVCC.
He came to Edwards’ class about two months ago to gain some computer research skills. He uses the information he gleans from online boiler discussion forums in his college class.
“He’s a very good teacher,” Martineau said of Edwards. “He’s clear and he’s brief. He knows what he’s talking about. He’s helped me a lot.”
Martineau, who for 31 years was in charge of the boilers at Seton and Thayer campuses of MaineGeneral Medical Center, says he is glad he came to the career center.
“It’s the best thing I did since I retired,” he said. “I would recommend it. Don’t miss it. Classes like this don’t come around every day. We’re in the computer age and we’ve got to get into it.”
Weeks concurs. He says the center offers a networking opportunity that helps people become more confident and ultimately, find jobs.
“It can make the difference between working or not,” he said.
Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 25 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.