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 VOL. 23, NO. 9NOVEMBER 14, 1997 

Employment Outreach Program Hires Local Workers

Facilities Management Program Provides Jobs and Training


Francesca Roberts touches up a painting job in Pupin. Record Photo by Amy Callahan.
Through a new outreach employment program at Columbia, Harlem resident Rick Blandon has work on campus that also serves as job training. Finally, he feels, opportunity has knocked.

  "I'm up before the alarm clock just to be here," he says of his maintenance job in Facilities Management. "This is the most positive I've felt in five years, really."

  Blandon is one of 17 temporary employees working on campus this semester through an employment program developed by Facilities Management. The program—in collaboration with more than ten local community agencies—has brought in skilled and semi-skilled workers to reduce a backlog of maintenance work, including painting and carpentry.

  Both Sheryl L. Jarvis, manager, strategic planning, and Cliff Stern, director, Facilities Management, Aramark Corp., noted that the program was developed with relative ease—jointly with Assistant Vice President for Community Affairs Larry Dais—and has turned out to be a win-win situation for all involved. With the support of union team leaders, who hired and now supervise the temporary employees, the program has been a success. It gives these workers a chance to learn additional skills, boost their resumes and earn a paycheck for at least ten weeks.

  "The whole group was way above what I expected in terms of skills and attitude," Stern said. "There's a lot of good people out there who are not employed who should be employed. They have the skills, and through this program, they now have the opportunity."

On the job: supervisor Maury Davis, an electrician/mason; and new employees Francesca Roberts and Rick Blandon. Record Photo by Amy Callahan.

  Columbia's John Arevalo, lead carpenter, who oversees the work of some of the temporary employees, said he is happy to have the help.

  "These people are really motivated to do what they have to do," he said. "And we've been able to serve the campus community a whole lot better, and faster."

  Program participant Francesca Roberts, of Flushing, Queens, who is a member of the special projects maintenance team, said she is learning on the job every day—from painting to plumbing.

  "I get to go out and get my hands in everything," she says, noting that previously she had had little success breaking into a career in maintenance. "It's kind of hard for a woman to just go to a construction site and ask, 'Can I get in?'" The answer, she said, was always no.

  Milolo Mukendi, a temporary electrician's helper, had similar experiences.

  "I worked in an office, but I wasn't too happy," she said. "Working with wiring and fixing things, that fulfilled me."

  "It's invaluable," Nicolas Falcon, a carpenter's helper, said. "I enjoy working here."

  The workers heard of the hiring program through community agencies working with Columbia, among them: East Harlem Labor Task Force, Non-Traditional Employment for Women, Harlem Business Alliance, New York Urban League and the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce. Then, at a job fair at Columbia in September, about 30 people interviewed for the positions.

  "This is one of the many things Columbia is doing to forge good relations with the community," Jarvis said. "This program has been very well received by everyone involved."

  Vice President for Facilities Management Charlie Maikish said of the initiative: "Even though an economic analysis has shown that Columbia already contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to New York's economy, we are committed to keeping even more of our dollars in the city. We are particularly eager to maximize our hiring of city residents, particularly those from Northern Manhattan. This program is a perfect opportunity."