“We are standing in one of the highest chronically unemployed and underemployed zip codes [in the City], 11206,” declared Councilmember Diana Reyna. “We must not leave one New Yorker behind in accessing pathways to workforce and career ladder opportunities.”
On Monday, March 25th, Reyna, Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Small Business joined Mayor Bloomberg, Councilmember Steve Levin, EDC Commissioner Seth Pinsky and other officials, community partners, employers and participants to formally roll out the City’s LINK (Leveraging Innovations and our Neighborhoods in the Knowledge economy) Initiative – eight new programs designed to connect low-income New Yorkers with job opportunities in the city’s tech economy. “We have to find ways to get the skills to match the jobs that are available,” said Human Resources Administration Commissioner Robert Doar.
The announcement took place at the Williamsburg headquarters of Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow (OBT), which provides job training for young adults and is a community partner in the LINK Initiative’s Digital Works NYC. This program increases the possibilities for young adults, ages 16 – 26, who are neither in school nor working, to find employment in the technology field. It increases their awareness of online work opportunities and allows participants to earn money while building an employment history and becoming prepared for digital employment. “The end result is that we get these young adults jobs,” said OBT Executive Director Randy Peers.
The other seven LINK Initiative programs are LEAP – Learn as you Earn Advancement Program – which focuses on in-demand occupations and seeks to improve graduation rates at community colleges, the Immigrant Bridge Program, which helps foreign-licensed immigrants map out what they need to do in order to get their credentials reestablished in the US or to find other opportunities that employ their advanced training, the Jobs and Economic Mobility Track in NYC BigApps, which focuses on developing mobile applications relating to workforce opportunities (e.g., job listings) and worker support services (e.g., childcare, healthcare, transit, etc.), the NYC Business Innovation Challenge that incentivizes businesses to invest in their employees, the Vacant Lot Activation Program that will put long-term vacant city-owned land to productive use through a variety of alternative and temporary uses, PROGRESS Networks, under which small- to medium-sized business enterprises develop groups to leverage economies of scale to lower the cost of doing business or investing in workers and LIFT Entrepreneurship, which supports low-income entrepreneurs by providing business incubator space, technical support, access to loans and partnerships with local anchor institutions.
“Every day we’re working to make sure that our record job growth continues in New York City,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We’re doing that by investing in skills programs – like the LINK initiative – that will keep New Yorkers competitive in the 21st century knowledge economy.”
By increasing economic opportunities for low-income New Yorkers, it is expected that the LINK Initiative will help grow the City’s economy. “This is one of the better programs I’ve seen, building capacity for MWBEs (Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise), who as they grow, will employ other New Yorkers,” noted Reyna.
One employer with a history of hiring from programs like LINK is John Dockery, President and CEO of Cambridge Corporate Services. “You could ask, ‘Can’t we get better applicants somewhere else?’ Giving people an opportunity is what life’s all about. I believe there are a lot more employers who are willing to reach out and say ‘yes.’ Here’s a person who’s qualified, has a great attitude, and understands what’s on the other side of the fence and wants to do a job well, so we’re delighted to have a lot of the graduates from Opportunities.”