NEW YORK—A line of hundreds curled around the James Weldon Johnson Community Center Wednesday morning. An unusual hush pervaded the neatly dressed crowd as they waited in line to enter the Jobs & Careers Fair in East Harlem.
The line spanned three blocks by 9:30 a.m.; the job fair did not begin until 10 a.m. As the morning wore on, more joined; and the line kept being replenished right through noon.
“There’s all this nonsense that blacks and Latinos don’t want to work,” said Lewis Zuchman, executive director of the Supportive Children’s Advocacy Network (SCAN). “It’s sad to see how many people here want work. These are clean-cut, well-dressed people.”
SCAN is a nonprofit that provides for struggling children and families in East Harlem and South Bronx. Working with the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, and with the sponsorship of Assemblyman Keith Wright, Wednesday marked the first of SCAN’s quarterly job fairs.
The organization used to hold one job fair a year in Harlem. “It was a hit and miss,” Zuchman recalled. “We wanted to do something to address the unemployment in the community in a holistic way.”
Hence, the commitment to hold job fairs every three months in the agency’s four community centers in East Harlem.
Roughly 17 percent of East Harlem’s adult population is unemployed, higher than the citywide rate of 10 percent. About 38 percent of East Harlem residents’ income is below the poverty line, according to AmeriCorps.
Like many others, this job fair was the first for Albert King, 57, previously a cook at a medical center. King has been unemployed for over a year now. “I look for a job everyday online; Lord it’s hard,” he said.
King said he enjoyed getting full information by talking to people at the fair, rather than going online.
He grinned as he waved a flier advertising free technology classes in Harlem, “I think I’m going to go do that too.”
There were 38 booths at the fair. The offers ranged from IT training, compensation analysts, training and openings for janitorial positions, to humanitarian missions for the Peace Corps.
MTA representatives showed job applicants the examination and hiring process, along with résumé-building tips.
“These are actual job opportunities, not just training,” said Aleyda Meyers, director of Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) recruitment. “The MTA headquarters is looking for MTA police; I’m looking for mechanical helpers; we are giving out our examination schedules from now until December.”
The fire department had a booth and was looking for candidates to examine; but they do not plan to hire anyone for another three years.
“It’s terrific that we’re doing this [job fair], but how many people are going to get work out of this?” Zuchman said.
For future job fairs, Zuchman is trying to get large employers such as Target and Applebee’s to join.
East Harlem is one of the most diverse ethnic communities in the city, with a population of 108,100. During the economic recession, East Harlem residents were among the city’s hardest hit communities. Only 13 percent of residents over 25 have a college degree, according to government statistics from 2010.
Many of the booths offered training. One booth offered women a free six-week training program to prepare for a career in building and construction apprenticeships, transportation, and green energy jobs.
The Self Help Community Services that provides free training for 40 people every month received more than 80 résumés Wednesday.
Benita Sewer, 30, has been to 25 job fairs already this year. “It’s mostly training that they’re looking for,” she said.
Sewer said she received similar training at the various job fairs, but she wants an actual job in public relations. She is currently studying public relations at the City College of New York.
“But I’m content. … I have learned and gained experience [at the job fairs],” she said. “Which is great because that gives people more of an advantage when jobs are open.”
According to recent statistics from the New York City Economic Development Corporation, private sector employment rose by 5,000 jobs in New York City from May to June.
Unemployment, however, also increased to 10 percent in June, and up 0.3 percent from May. The city’s total unemployed residents rose by 14,100, and the government sector lost around 1,000 jobs.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.