First City-Run Career Center for Immigrants Opens

The first Workforce1 Career Center focused on helping immigrant job seekers has opened uptown. Located in Washington Heights, the Department of Small Business Services’ (SBS) new center will tailor employment, training and support services to connect foreign-born New Yorkers with jobs in growing industries such as healthcare, transportation and technology. “New York City is an immigrant town, and we know that people come here with skill sets that are in demand,” said SBS Commissioner Gregg Bishop. “But they don’t always have the credentials to actually jump right into our workforce. We are helping our large and small businesses tap into the talent that’s here.” The center, located at 516 West 181st Street, is a public-private partnership between SBS, the Human R e s o u r c e s Administration/Department of Social Services (HRA/DSS) and the Robin Hood Foundation. It marks the first time that SBS and HRA staff members have been co-located at the same site.The Washington Heights Workforce1 Career Center offers customized workshops for foreign-born job candidates, pre-training programs featuring English as a Second Language (ESL) support, and advanced occupational training programs in the technology, healthcare and transportation fields. “In addition to interview skills and resume writing, we offer specialized workshops like understanding the American workplace, conflict resolution and conducting a successful job search,” said Site Director Ulysses Grasso. “People who are intermediate in English can now apply for pre-training as a medical assistant, pre-training for a CDL license driving trucks,” he added. “We’re excited about that because it means better wages, better jobs.” Clients can also get connected with HRA benefits at the center.Though the center has been in operation for several weeks, the site had an official ribbon cutting on September 7, attended by SBS Commissioner Gregg Bishop, HRA/DSS Commissioner Steven Banks, City Councilmember Ydanis Rodríguez and Robin Hood President Reynold Levy. Client Yvonne Arevalo, who immigrated from Peru in 2000, has registered for a bilingual medical assistant training program at the center. “I got all kinds of support here, with many workshops,” said Arevalo, who has been working as a home health aide but said she has found it difficult to find a career path since coming to the United States. “The workshops were very useful for me, because we aren’t always familiar with employment practices of this country,” remarked Arevalo, who will be doing a pre-internship and advanced occupational training through the Workforce1 Center. “I’m very thankful because this center is focusing on our immigrant community,” she stated. Levy noted the center’s “culturally relevant” programming and its importance to immigrant New Yorkers. “This center will be a test bed for job readiness and benefits enrollment,” said Levy. “It will increase the ranks of skilled workers, bolster our economy.” Though based in Washington Heights, the center is open to anyone in the city over 18 years of age, Grasso said. Bishop pointed out that clients of other Workforce1 centers can take advantage of some of the offerings at the Washington Heights location. “They just need to go to a Workforce1 Center – there is an internal referral network and they can get connected with some of the resources here,” explained Bishop, who said that SBS eventually hopes to expand the format to other centers. “The idea is that as we monitor the success of this center, we will embed those programs in other centers, and make that a model for expansion,” he said. Rodríguez, who said he hopes to see an influx of immigrant workers connected with jobs at nearby New York-Presbyterian Hospital, explained that he has many immigrant constituents who complain about difficulty finding good jobs. “We didn’t have that connection before,” Rodríguez said. “Now, they will be connected with jobs and training.” Banks said that the goal of the center is to give immigrant New Yorkers a career path out of public assistance. “Our partnership with this center is a key step forward for us,” stated Banks. “To be able to make services available for our clients, who for many years in the past were not getting those services.”

Manhattan Times Story and photos by Gregg McQueen

Posted by on Oct 14 2016. Filed under Community News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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