It is just a shell now but crews are transforming the first floor of Northeast Parent & Child Society into its new Career Development Center.
Workers from BBL Construction Services began work this month to renovate the space at 530 Franklin St. that formerly housed the Social Security Administration, which relocated to the New York State Lottery building. Northeast officials said this new 12,670-square-foot space will allow the agency to increase the number of Schenectady County youths served annually by the program from 100 now to 250. The program provides GED preparation, career counseling, parent education, job training and placement, internships and ongoing support.
Half of the funding for the $1.5 million project was from a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant the agency received from the state Office of Small Cities in 2008. The other half was raised through private donations. Members of Northeast’s board of directors contributed more than $100,000 to the project. SEFCU and BLL donated $100,000 each.
Northeast held a ceremony Tuesday to celebrate the start of the project.
John Henley, president and chief executive officer of Northeast, said the career center project was launched three years ago to address the thousands of Schenectady County youth between the ages of 18 and 24 who lack high school diplomas, are unemployed or underemployed.
Some of the youths have a history of poor performance in school, truancy and behavior problems. Some have children of their own and support families.
“All these young people share a deep motivation to change,” he said.
The inside of the building will receive a complete makeover. What was a standard office with a variety of cubicles will be changed to include a computer room with 10 computers, a training room and offices.
Henley said it is going to be “one-stop” shopping for teaching young people the social skills needed to survive in the work force. For example, you don’t just quit on impulse when you become frustrated.
The agency partners with 40 other organizations including General Electric and Mohawk Ambulance. Mohawk has said they will employ all emergency medical technicians that complete Northeast’s training program and pass the state exam, according to Henley.
He pointed out that the starting salary for an emergency medical technician is $35,000.
“We’re very proud to help local youth transform from social service recipients to working adults,” he said.
Henley also anticipated working closely with local community colleges. He said the organization may boost its staff by 20 to 30 employees when it serves more children, depending on grant funding. About 550 people work for Northeast with about 80 in the work force training department.
Northeast relocated to the building in 2007. On the second floor, there is the Child Guidance Center, which Northeast took over in 2005, and a sexual abuse treatment program. The third floor houses administrative offices.
Schenectady County Legislature Chairwoman Susan Savage, D-Niskayuna, said the center is the result of a partnership between the county and Northeast. She is excited that young people will be prepared for jobs in in-demand fields of computer programming, and digital and graphics imaging.
“We’re looking forward to a bright future for so many of the people who will come through this building,” she said.
Ray Gillen, Schenectady County’s commissioner of planning and economic development, said the project has a countywide impact.