Schenectady County

Labor office to open in city

Officials of the state Department of Labor are coming back to Schenectady and they’re hoping to put
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Officials of the state Department of Labor are coming back to Schenectady and they’re hoping to put the city’s youth to work.

Mayor Brian U. Stratton was greeted with a round of applause from a collection of county and city officials gathered at City Hall Monday afternoon as he announced the regional DOL office would reopen. The Labor Department will also relocate its one-stop office on State Street to a new site within the former Schenectady International facility on Broadway, which is to house the county’s Department of Social Services offices.

In 2004, the Labor Department consolidated its Schenectady office with one in Albany. Stratton said the office’s return in early 2009 will help local residents using its services and will add a small number of jobs to the city’s growing state employment base.

“It helps to have the Labor Department here,” he said.

Department spokesman Leon Rosales later said three jobs will be created.

The announcement came after state Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith discussed a federal tax credit incentive aimed at encouraging employers to hire youth workers from areas designated as federal Renewal Communities or Empowerment Zones. Schenectady was declared a Renewal Community during the 1990s and has 5,528 workers that could be hired as part of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program.

“One of the most troubling aspects of the downturn in the economy is the projection that summer youth employment will be the lowest on record since the government began tracking teenage work in 1948,” Smith said.

The program allows employers even outside the renewal community zone to hire 16- and 17-year-old workers for part- and full-time work from July through mid-September. These employers receive a tax credit based on the level of wages paid to the worker; the average credit is about $500 per employee, according to labor figures.

Also included in the program are newly hired city workers between the ages of 18 and 24. If their employment reaches more than 400 hours, the employer can receive up to a $2,400 tax credit.

“These tax credits are very helpful at this time,” Smith said. “We are urging businesses to go out and hire youth.”

Smith also discussed the labor department’s $981,000 investment in worker initiatives throughout the Capital Region and $26 million across New York. She said the funding comes in response to the largest one-month jump in the state unemployment rate in more than 17 years.

“We need to invest in our employees and our employers so we can compete in the global economy,” she said during the news conference.

This investment will include $138,000 of worker training grants awarded to businesses across the Capital Region. Another $293,000 will be dedicated to internship programs to provide for the transition high of school and college-age workers into the workforce.

County Legislator Gary Hughes said the transition funding is important, noting that recently the shortage of trained workers in the area prompted the General Electric Co. to seek workers from the Midwest.

“We need to bridge this gap and this is one main step in bridging it,” he said.

Capital Region groups will also receive $550,000 to help promote emerging technology industries, such as biotech and advanced technology. Dan Gentile, the executive director of the Capital Region Workforce Investment Board, said the funding is in the first round of three they hope to tap during a three-year period to train, attract and retain skilled laborers.

“It’s all about preparing the workforce for advanced technology,” he said.

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