June 19, 2015
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—Working together to provide opportunities for residents in economically challenging neighborhoods, the City Council and the Consortium for Worker Education announced earlier this week that they have helped over 15,000 New Yorkers find meaningful work.
The CWE created the Jobs to Build On program over a decade ago and the City Council has allocated approximately $45 million over the past six years to help the CWE build relationships with community-based organizations such as Henry Street Settlement, Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow, South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, Urban UpBound and Brooklyn Workforce Innovations who work with their local employers to hire local residents.
In a recent interview with CWE’s executive director, Joseph McDermott, explained that the agency is the workforce arm of New York City’s Central Labor Council. CWE’s board of directors includes some of the city’s top labor leaders such as Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York and Vincent Alvarez, CLC’s president.
“The Board agreed several years ago that the city’s unions should be reaching out to non-union New Yorkers. We worked with the City Council to secure the necessary funding, and council members in turn provided us with a list of zip codes that we should focus our activity in order to maximize skills training and job placement for disadvantaged New Yorkers,” said McDermott.
According to McDermott, the relationships the agency has cultivated with community-based organizations has created a significant ecosystem of employment opportunities.
“We’ve helped to build the whole structure of community workforce providers. It’s a milestone for us to place 15,000 New Yorkers in living wage jobs. If the City Council doubled the amount of money we receive, I’m confident we’d be able to place 30,000 New Yorkers,” McDermott said.
Many of the jobs the CBOs help New Yorkers find are right within the communities they live. McDermott said the jobs may not be highly skilled professional jobs like a lawyer or teacher, but they do pay a living wage—back office operations such as information technology and human resources, as well as jobs that require a Commercial Driver License.
The president of the Teamsters Joint Council 16, George Miranda, is the new chairman. We asked McDermott about Miranda’s vision for the consortium.
“If you know George he doesn’t just sit down and take it easy. We’re always asking ourselves what do we have to do so that we don’t get stale. What else can we be doing to expand opportunities? What licenses and/or certifications should we be looking at. We’re the university of work skills; we’re the language for the worker on how the job is done,” he said.
When asked how would he summarize the CWE to someone who asked what is the Consortium’s main role, McDermott said,
“The consortium’s main role is increasing workers’ egos.”