Helping Neighbors Find A Local Health Care Job

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Much of Upper Manhattan has been transformed by the real estate boom of the past decade, but many residents have complained of being priced out of the neighborhoods they call home. A program announced today aims to help some longtime residents share in the area’s prosperity by giving them the skills they need to get good-paying jobs.

In its first employment-building initiative of this kind, the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation is joining with area hospitals and a major health care union to train unemployed residents for entry-level health care jobs and provide those already in health care professions with the means to advance their careers. Guaranteed jobs – and continued training for career advancement – await the 118 people who complete the course.

The program, called Career Opportunities in Health Care, is funded by a grant of $681,698 from UMEZ to the 1199 SEIU Training and Employment Funds, a joint program of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and health care institutions. In New York City, 1199 SEIU represents 150,000 health-care workers
The participating hospitals are Mount Sinai Medical Center at E. 98th Street and Madison Avenue, North General Hospital at E. 122nd Street and Madison Avenue, and New York-Presbyterian Medical Center at W. 168th Street and Broadway.

The program, which is expected to begin taking in its first recruits later this month or in early November, was announced at a news conference today at Mount Sinai Hospital by U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel, UMEZ President Kenneth J. Knuckles, 1199 SEIU President George Gresham and Mount Sinai President Kenneth Davis.

Hope Knight, UMEZ’s chief operating officer, said that the program grew out of the realization that a large number of health care facilities are located in northern Manhattan but that few residents work in those institutions. “The message that kept coming back was that we’d have to talk to the union, and that’s when we began the dialogue with 1199,” Knight said.

This is the first time 1199 SEIU has offered training to nonunion members, Knight said. Operating since 1994, UMEZ is a federally designated area covering much of Manhattan from East 98th Street northward, where millions in public funds are used in a variety of ways to catalyze private investment.

UMEZ describes the program as a “demand-driven workforce strategy” to meet the needs of both local employers and employees. Of the 118 jobs envisioned in the program, 78 are entry-level positions for the unemployed or under-employed. Short-term training would be provided for 50 of these positions, and 28 slots are designated for applicants who are “job-ready.” Entry-level occupations include dietary workers, housekeeping staff, security workers and nurses’ aides.

The entry-level jobs, for people typically with a high school diploma or equivalent, are expected to pay about $29,000 per year.

The remaining 40 slots are designated for people already working in health care who seek to upgrade their skills. Twenty-eight of these are for people working in clerical positions, and 12 are for people working toward registered nurse degrees, who would get scholarships to finish their education.

As it turns out, the initiative also meets the needs of the 1199 SEIU Training Funds, which previously lacked the funding to help nonunion workers get the skills they needed to get union jobs, said Deborah King, executive director of the 1199 SEIU Training Funds. “Basically, what we see this program doing is helping the economic development of the Empowerment Zone by giving people who are unemployed jobs and helping people who are working to move up,” King said.

UMEZ is working with community-based organizations and the city-run Workforce 1 Career Centers in the empowerment zone to identify potential candidates for the program. Individuals interested in the program can inquire about it at the Workforce 1 Career Center located at 215 W. 125th Street.

– Andrew Yurkovsky

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