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The poor state of the economy means many residents are out of work and looking for new jobs, but the East River Development Alliance, a Long Island City-based economic development organization, is helping those in public housing build new lives.
“We’re still getting people jobs at the same rate as before,” said Jeremy Reiss, vice president for strategy, organizing and external affairs at ERDA. “It’s just not as easy. We have to hustle.”
Job seekers and employers also learned to hustle at ERDA’s most recent event: an employer luncheon, the second installment of what ERDA plans to make an annual event. Unlike last year’s luncheon, this year’s featured “speed interviewing.”
Reiss said about 20 job seekers did mock interviews with 50 employers at the June 22 session. Afterward, the job seekers met back with their employment counselors and discussed what they had learned.
“The idea was to introduce employers, but it was also to give the ERDA job seekers real, on-the-ground experience in seeking a job,” Reiss said.
After the mock interviews, ERDA held a luncheon just for employers. During the luncheon, representatives from The Floating Hospital and the Queens Chamber of Commerce spoke on affordable employee health insurance opportunities and networking, respectively.
Bishop Mitchell Taylor, president and chief executive officer of ERDA, said the luncheon was the latest part of the six-year-old organization’s mission to provide financial literacy, college access and community optimization to public housing communities.
He said ERDA changes communities “not from the outside in, but the inside out.”
Reiss said 150 people find employment through ERDA every year. They primarily serve those in public housing projects in western Queens, such as the Queensbridge Houses, Ravenswood Houses, Astoria Houses and Woodside Houses, although they will help anyone who asks find employment.
What makes the program successful is how involved the employment counselors are in the job seeker’s search. Before they are assigned a counselor, employees get financial education and opportunities to build small skills to work at a job. Even after they find a job, ERDA counselors continue to mark the employees’ progress and help them move to the next level.
But what really helps ERDA job seekers is how ERDA stays in close contact with multiple employees throughout the county — and when they are hiring ERDA makes sure to send them candidates who are qualified.
“We really work with employees for a long period of time and make sure we meet employers’ needs,” Reiss said.
“When they leave ERDA, they’re ready to be the best person you ever hire,” Taylor said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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