Schenectady looks to create job opportunities in construction

The city announced two programs aimed at low-income residents and local firms
Ron Gardner, Schenectady affirmative action officer, speaks on Tuesday at SCCC's College and Career Counseling Center.
Ron Gardner, Schenectady affirmative action officer, speaks on Tuesday at SCCC's College and Career Counseling Center.

SCHENECTADY — New programs to help low-income city residents and local construction firms were unveiled during a press conference on Tuesday.

The city’s Affirmative Action Office, partnering with the SUNY College and Career Counseling Center, are looking for 30 applicants to sign up for its construction industry job training program. At the same time, the city is also partnering with various other organizations in the construction industry to help 15 local emerging construction firms in a Construction Management Training program.

“This is a clear definition of a private, public partnership,” said Ron Gardner, the city’s affirmative action officer.

Gardner, along with several other speakers during the press conference, said there is a “labor shortage” within the construction industry. 

“We want to take advantage of that,” Gardner said.

The job training program is aimed at city residents who qualify for Section 3 employment, which is meant for low-income residents and residents who live in public housing. It is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The program offers an introduction to the construction industry for residents through a 125-hour core curriculum. It teaches basic skills to be a laborer, a foreman, an estimator or even someone looking to work administratively in a construction office.

“We want to introduce [residents] to the whole concept of opportunities in the industry,” Gardner said.

The program will also track and monitor participants over the course of a couple of years to make sure they are successful, Gardner said.

The city has proposed to allocate $77,260 in Community Development Block Grant funding to give to SUNY College and Career Counseling Center, which is administered by Schenectady County Community College. It’ll be used to fund applicant screening, ongoing monitoring and tracking of applicants and data collection of the job training program.

There is no cost for the resident participating in the program.

DeShawn McGarrity, executive director of the SUNY College and Career Counseling Center, said these type of partnerships are the “true hallmark” of the center’s mission.

“We are delighted to serve as the work preparation hub for this project,” McGarrity said.

Gardner also introduced the new Construction Management Training program, which has the goal of helping 15 “disadvantaged” and “emerging” firms that want to take their business to the next level. The program starts in May and would last for six months, according to Gardner.

The program is supposed to help subcontractors connect with general contractors that are sponsoring the program. 

It is being sponsored by several organizations, including the Association of Minority Enterprises of New York, the Association of General Contractors, the Eastern Contractors Association, the Northeastern Subcontractors Association and the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region.

Gardner singled out Michael DeOrio, owner of Happy Electric, as a person who could benefit from the management training program.

DeOrio, an Army veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, said he was being mentored by Gardner on how to start his business correctly. One of the areas of his job he said the program could help him with is how to correctly bid for jobs.

DeOrio, who is actually looking to hire electricians and office workers, said he already benefited from just being at the press conference on Tuesday.

“I’ve met several contacts who could help me,” DeOrio said.

The hope of these initiatives is to bring the residents who went through the job training program together with the firms learning how to expand their business.

The press conference came on the heels of the release of the Capital District Planning Commission’s report on disparities in household incomes in the Capital Region.

The report shows the period between 2012 and 2016, the median household income in Saratoga County was $74,080. In Schenectady County during the same time period, the median household income was at $59,959.

When broken down by race and ethnicity, the report shows during the time period between 2012 and 2016, Asian and white households had median household incomes of $62,149 and $65,176 respectively.

Hispanic and Black households, though, were much lower with their median household incomes at $35,641 and $29,358 respectively.

Gardner said that’s a gap this program is looking to close.

“That’s exactly the priority that’s steering this program,” Gardner said.

The hope, Gardner said, is the model being created in the city will become a statewide model.

David Rubin, senior adviser of Sano-Rubin Construction Services, praised the two new programs during the press conference. He hopes it will lead public schools to teach students about opportunities in the construction industry.

“That’s how we create growth,” Rubin said.

Those interested in participating in the program can visit the SUNY College and Career Counseling Center on the first floor of Center City at 433 State St. They can also call 518-631-2257 or email [email protected].

Categories: -News-, Schenectady County

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