The Queens Job Fair is one of eleven that the state is sponsoring this month as part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s NY Works program. Statewide, the fairs will connect residents with approximately 375 employers representing 10,000 openings.
At the York College location, the 33 businesses in attendance included Americare, Cablevision, the FDNY, the Peace Corps, Dental Financial, Resorts World, CBS and Northwestern.
Individuals representing NY Youth Works, a job placement program for disadvantaged young adults, also set up shop at the fair.
Special Counsel at the NYS Department of Labor Rachel Gold said the Governor has made improving the teenage unemployment rate a priority. The Youth Works program aims to provide training and placement for more than 10,500 positions in 12 targeted regions across the state.
According to Gold, said the youth unemployment rate in Queens is 23.1 percent.
Companies participating in the Youth Works program include Cablevision, Whole Foods and Geico.
“This is really a tremendous opportunity and really a tremendous push by Governor Cuomo,” said John Moye, the Commissioner’s Regional Representative for the NYS Department of Labor. “We think it’s a win-win for everybody. It’s obviously a win-win for the business community, it’s a win-win for young people in terms of getting a job and it’s a win-win for all of us because they’re actually employed and out there working.”
At the fair, young adults meandered through the rows of tables amid a sea of job seekers.
“It’s hard. I’ve been trying to get a job, I’ve been trying since the spring semester,” said Sia Jeffrey, an 18-year-old York College student from St. Albans. “I have stuff to pay for like books for college. I have financial aid but it doesn’t cover everything. I’m worried about this semester coming up because I don’t want to spend all my savings on books.”
Another student, Kirk Bissoon of Richmond Hill, who attends St. John’s University, was not aware of the job fair until he walked past York’s campus. He walked in to see if the fair could offer up summer employment.
“Not only would [a job] help to pay for college but it also teaches you leadership and makes you a well-rounded individual,” he said.
The overall unemployment rate for Queens in April was 7.9 percent, down from 9.2 percent in February. The city’s unemployment numbers are highest in the Bronx, where 12 percent of residents are currently out of work.
Jay Hawkins, a 31-year old East Flatbush resident, is tired of being a statistic. He traveled from the job fair in Brooklyn to Queens, hoping to double his odds of employment.
“When you’re unemployed you try and have an open mind pursuing opportunities,” he said.
Hawkins has been unemployed for eight months. He previously worked for a state agency on Long Island.
“I get better results when I have a positive mindset,” he said. “A lot of stuff hasn’t been my fault, but that’s not going to help me worrying about it. I’m hoping that before the end of the summer I’ll have something lined up.”
By the end of June, Hawkins and many others hope to be one of the 10,000 granted a position and a paycheck through the NY Works program.
“The idea is to create the opportunity for these people,” Gold said.
Photos by Mike Gambina/Queens Beat