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Schenectady affirmative action failing

Schenectady affirmative action failing

Despite years of recruitment and encouragement from a full-time affirmative action director, there a

Despite years of recruitment and encouragement from a full-time affirmative action director, there are actually fewer minorities working for the city now than there were in 2010.

The annual report on affirmative action laid out exactly how far the city has to go to reflect the diversity of the city population.

City government is 92 percent white, while the city population is just 62 percent white.

By the numbers

The makeup of Schenectady’s workforce:

White: 501

Black: 27

Hispanic: 10

Asian: 8

Other: 1

Three years ago, minorities made up 9 percent of the city workforce. There were also more women working for the city then.

Whites vastly outnumber other races in every job category, from administrators to laborers.

In the laborer and service category, there are 91 whites to 16 blacks. In the administration, there are 43 whites and two blacks.

Affirmative Action Director Miriam Cajuste said she cannot do much to improve the numbers. Minorities simply aren’t taking the civil service exams to be eligible for city jobs, she said.

She holds information sessions, helps exam-takers study for their tests, runs advertising campaigns, helps minorities match their resumes to available jobs and even calls job-seekers personally to encourage them to take the exams relevant to their skills.

But it’s not working, she said.

“It really comes down to civil service exams,” she said. “It’s about taking the civil service exams. Until the minorities and women realize this fact, the numbers are always going to be low.”

She said she is certain that Schenectady is still home to many minorities who have the skills and education to qualify for city jobs — but they simply aren’t taking the exams.

The question now is why.

Marion Porterfield, the first black woman to serve on the City Council, wants to find out. She’s asking people why they don’t apply for city jobs.

While she’s getting a “random sample,” as she put it, she’s hoping it will shed some light on the problem.

“I’m just trying to analyze it and see what’s going on, to try to remedy it,” she said. “It should not stay the same, it just should not.”

Cajuste has also asked that question. She said in some cases, residents told her they are intimidated by the exams.

Others have complained to her that they never got called after taking an exam.

“They’ll say, ‘I never got a call from anybody, why should I spend another $15 taking another test?’” Cajuste said.

She tells them that they can’t get hired unless they get on the list by passing the exam. Since exams are held every few years to replenish the hiring list, those who didn’t get called must take the exam again to stay on the list.

Test-takers are listed by score, with the highest scores being interviewed first for a job. If there are few jobs, those who score poorly might never reach the top of the list before the list expires and a new exam is held.

Cajuste also said that many of the city’s jobs aren’t really available when a test is offered.

With the exception of police and fire positions, exams are often offered after the city has hired its preferred candidate. That person must still pass the exam to keep the job, but others are only considered if the “provisional candidate” fails the exam.

In those cases, Cajuste said, minorities must apply before the provisional candidate — often an internal candidate — is chosen.

The city posts job openings on its website, www.cityofschenectady.com.

As for police and firefighter positions, Cajuste is getting frustrated.

She’s tried advertisements, recruitment at historically black colleges, free study sessions and even a direct partnership with the police and fire command staff, who have tried to recruit minorities themselves.

Yet of the 243 police officers and firefighters, only four are black. Six are Hispanic and two are Asian. The rest are white. They are almost all men.

“The police and fire numbers just astound me,” Cajuste said.

She did see an increase in minorities taking one police exam after heavy advertising, including posters in windows and billboards.

But without another round of advertising, the surge did not continue with the next set of exams.

“After that it dropped off again,” she said.

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