Harquin kicks off Westchester Summer Jobs website
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April 26, 2010
Executives at POP Displays GSA, a manufacturer of retail store displays in Yonkers, last year took on 12 youths in Westchester's summer jobs program. They soon found they had a keeper in Candis Peterson, a 24-year-old Yonkers resident looking for a chance to prove herself a hard worker and get off public assistance.
"She was a consistent contributor from the beginning," said Scott Katcher, senior vice president at POP Displays, which employs about 600 workers at its 435,000-square-foot facility at 555 Tuckahoe Road, a former Saks Fifth Avenue distribution center. "We were thrilled to extend an offer for full-time regular employment."
Now a junior fabricator in the display maker's model and prototype shop, Peterson appeared recently with Katcher in White Plains to promote the county's financially challenged summer youth employment program. "I love my job," she said. "It's an awesome place to work. I was given the chance of a lifetime."
Her voice broke in tearful gratitude as she thanked the audience at the summer jobs program kickoff event "for making it possible for underprivileged people like me to have a job ... It just opened up my lift tremendously on a career path ... It made my life so much better."
Such workplace success stories might not emerge at Westchester businesses this summer without a new commitment in funding from the private sector to continue the 10-year-old program.
The Westchester-Putnam Workforce Investment Board last year received $1.6 million in government support for the program, including federal stimulus funds. Working through youth agencies throughout the county, officials placed 932 teens and young adults at businesses and nonprofit organizations. This year, though, that funding is "somewhat threatened to nonexistent," said Donnovan Beckford, executive director of the bi-county work-force investment board.
The Business Council of Westchester and its public-sector partners are calling on private companies to hire youths and pay their wages this summer in the absence of government funding. Beckford said the average cost for an employer will be $1,600 for six to seven weeks of employment for youths ages 18 to 21.
Businesses are asked also to make a donation to sponsor one or more economically eligible teens ranging in age from 14 to 17 for a six-week employment enrichment program. Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino, who joined in the call to for-profit businesses to fill the funding void, said the Business Council hopes to raise funds to defray costs for that program.
"This is a win-win investment for our future," said. Business Council President and CEO Marsha Gordon, "with the greatest return of preparing our future work force." Work-force development "is critical to the success of Westchester businesses," she said.
The public-private partnership also includes the United Way of Westchester and Putnam, whose volunteers will register youths for the program at the United Way's 2-1-1 Helpline. Sign-ups begin May 3.
Job applicants will be screened and interviewed by staff at 11 youth agencies participating in the program. Youth agency workers also will mentor youths in their on-the-job experience and act as liaisons between summer employees and employers.
Concorde Staffing Group in White Plains will offer payroll services at cost to business-es in the jobs program. Other program partners include the African American Chamber of Commerce of Westchester and Rockland Counties inc.; the Westchester Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Inc.; Hospitality Resource Group Inc. in White Plains and Harquin Creative Group in Pelham.
Businesses can sign up for the summer program at the partnership's new website, www.WestchesterSummerJobs.com. A more comprehensive one-stop online portal connecting job seekers of all skill levels to Westchester and Putnam employers will be launched June 23. The website will focus on the hospitality, finance, health care and green sectors of the employment market.
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