Many out-of-work county residents gathered Wednesday morning at the Minden Town Hall for a crash course on the current job market.
A slew of state employment experts were set up with computers and literature, ready to offer advice, tweak resumes and dig into job databases.
“We’re trying to mobilize our resources and really get out into the community,” said Steve Ryan, state manager of business resources, who headed up what he called the Mobile Re-employment Response Team. “We can’t expect the long-term unemployed to make a long drive to come to us.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the start of the response team a few weeks ago, laying out a schedule of stops all over the state. Wednesday’s event was just the second in a series of events designed to target the long-term unemployed, those collecting jobless benefits for more than 26 weeks.
People like Peter Greco. Greco has been looking unsuccessfully for work since he lost his job as a teacher in the Greater Amsterdam School District in June 2011.
“I’m 55 and never been laid off before now,” he said.
The employment experts helped him write and design a few different resumes and pointed out new professions he could pursue. Though he has a master’s degree in education, they pointed him toward a few open manufacturing jobs.
“When you’ve been unemployed this long, you’ll do anything,” he said. “I have kids in college.”
Greco is far from alone in this part of the Mohawk Valley. The Minden location was chosen because of the area’s high unemployment rate. The team sent invitations to 550 local residents collecting jobless benefits.
According to Department of Labor Regional Economist Mark Barbano, Fulton and Montgomery counties have some of the highest unemployment rates in New York, coming in at 10.6 percent and 10.3 percent, respectively, in August, compared with the state average of 8.8 percent.
“Rural areas as a general rule have higher unemployment rates,” he said. “There aren’t as many service jobs, and transportation can be a problem.”
Melissa Caponera said distance is the main thing keeping her from work. She lost her job as a teacher’s assistant in Fort Plain nearly a year and a half ago. Her benefits will run out in another two months.
“I live in St. Johnsville, which is the problem,” she said. “All the good jobs are 65 miles away in Albany. I’d be spending $100 a week on gas.”
After a half-hour, one-on-one session, an employment expert found an open administrative position at Burrows Paper Co. in Little Falls.
“I’m going to apply for it tonight,” Caponera said.
Ryan explained people’s chances of getting work are based largely on their skills and how far they are willing to drive, but unemployment can be self-perpetuating.
“Businesses don’t look kindly at the long-term unemployed,” he said.
As part of the re-employment program, the state will reimburse companies for a portion of job training costs if they hire the long-term unemployed.
The Mobile Re-employment Response Team will be making many more stops this month. Locally, it will be at the Johnstown Public Library on Oct. 15.
“It’s still up to you to go out and find a job,” Greco said. “This will just help.”
For more information, visit www.labor.ny.gov.