Officer Tristan Barnes grabbed Jorgieliz Casanova at the Yale Art Gallery before she could get away.
“You remind me of me,” the officer told the young woman. “You’ve got to do an internship!”
Casanova (at right in photo) and a group of other New Haven college students had just told Barnes (at left) and a group of her fellow Yale cops about their career dreams. Casanova, a Metropolitan Business Academy grad who grew up in the Hill, spoke of how she is studying criminal justice at Albertus Magnus College. She had considered going into the army, then decided she’d seek a law-enforcement career instead.
In her youth, Barnes, too, had considered an armed forces career—with the Marines. “My mother begged me not to” sign up, said Barnes, a Quinnipiac U grad. She switched to law-enforcement, landed on the Yale force six years ago. “Law enforcement puts me out there to help people” every day, she said.
Dozens of other similar interactions were taking place amid the pricey modern art on the gallery walls last Thursday afternoon. A “pipeline” was opening up. A jobs pipeline.
New Haven Promise, the program that pays college costs for successful New Haven kids, gathered 69 of its “scholars” to meet with hiring managers from nine different Yale departments as well as a new city job-placement agency. The idea was to connect promising young New Haveners to jobs at New Haven’s largest employer, at least through internships or summer positions if not long-term employment.
It was the latest of a number of moves civic New Haven has made recently to address high unemployment and underemployment in a city that’s growing an “eds and meds” economy. New Haven’s unemployment rate roughly doubled over the past 20 years, to between 12 and 13 percent, while more than 2,000 new jobs were created.
Written Into Development Deals
The idea of creating a “pipeline” to jobs—not just referrals, but training and mentoring—arose two years ago in the wake of an historic local election campaign.
First Yale’s labor unions negotiated a new contract with the university that created a preferential hiring track for New Haveners. Diane Young Turner, who oversees the effort for Yale, said around 100 New Haveners have landed positions throughout the university since it got up and running in June.
Labor-backed aldermen worked with government and corporate leaders to create a similar program, called New Haven Works, to prepare and vet and then seek hiring priority for local people at other employers. The agency has a $1.2 million budget. In its first six months the agency found 110 people jobs.
Meanwhile, city officials have sought to build the “pipeline”—the new programs, plus a separate government-spawned trades school launched on Dixwell Aveune—into negotiations on development deals.
The builder of one of New Haven’s next big planned projects, for instance, has promised to look for construction workers through new city-hatched “pipelines.” The promise is contained in a deal currently before the Board of Aldermen for approval: with a private developer to build a 120,000-square-foot office and retail complex on Legion Avenue across from Career High School, the beginning stage of a broader planned rezoning and rebuilding of 16 acres of land between downtown and the Boulevard called “Route 34 West.”
The promise: That the developer (a partnership between a for-profit Middletown-based builder called Centerplan and a local not-for-profit called Continuum of Care) will “utilize the City-sponsored workforce program (Construction Workforce Initiative 2) as a source of recruitment” for construction workers and “use best good faith efforts to negotiate a partner agreement with New Haven Works concerning employment opportunities with the Developer directly associated with the Project.”
That means the city can steer to the project workers it has trained through a training center it created for low-income, low-skilled local people, called the Cozzi-J. Miller-Pearson Career Development School on Dixwell Avenue. And it means it can also steer unemployed and underemployed people to the project from New Haven Works, the “job pipeline” program government, business and labor leaders created this past year.
That promise is continued in a land disposition agreement between the city and the builder as part of a proposed sale of $2.65 million of 5.39 acres of land at 243 Legion Ave., which is to become a consolidated home for Continuum of Care along with retail shops. (Click here to read the land disposition agreement. Click here to read a previous story about the Route 34 West project.)
Livable City Initiative (LCI) chief Erik Johnson, who helped negotiate the deal, said he hopes that promise sets a precedent for how New Haven does development in the future: Making sure jobs created by new projects go to local people. That has proved a challenge, in part because it hasn’t always been easy to find well-trained people ready for those jobs.
New Haven Works was created to help address that challenge. So was the Dixwell Avenue school, part of a “Construction Workforce Initiative” created by the city’s Commission on Equal Opportunities (CEO). The program does screening on behalf of employers, along with job-readiness training.
The Route 34 West agreement also calls for the developer to give the CEO $50,000 to enforce local laws requiring that at least 25 percent of the jobs on government-backed building projects go to blacks and Latinos, and at least 6.9 percent go to women. Another $50,000 would go toward a different city program, the Small Business Initiative, to help develop a pool of minority-owned contractors and subcontractors.
The city obtained similar local-hiring agreements in negotiations with a Montreal developer poised to construct at $395 million project on the former New Haven Coliseum site, according to Johnson.
Nichole Jefferson (pictured), who runs the CEO and created the Dixwell Avenue training school, called the guarantees in the Route 34 West deal the most explicit she has seen since taking over the job in 2001. Since she created the workforce initiative program, some 4,500 people have been prepared for painting, plumbing, carpentry, asbestos-removal, and solar-installation jobs, among other construction trades, she said. The school, the pre-construction program of its kind in New England, has another 55 trainees graduating on Jan. 17. The program teaches the trainees not just specialized skills, but general math skills—and showing-up skills. Many get kicked out of the program for showing up late three times.
“You can’t give a bad candidate to a contractor,” Jefferson said.
“Contractors want to do the right thing. Sometimes they need a push.”
1 On The Way
At the Yale University Art Gallery last Thursday afternoon, the 69 New Haven college students—who as a group graduated from 11 different city high schools and now attend 14 different in-state colleges—gathered in an auditorium to hear from New Haven Promise’s Patricia Melton. Melton organized the first-ever event to build on her program’s goal of not just helping New Haveners attend and succeed in college, but also return home to good jobs.
Then the students met in small groups for 10 minutes at each of the 10 stations set up by New Haven Works and the nine separate Yale departments, from the university’s art galleries and music school to finance and IT and environmental health.
Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins (at right in photo) was particularly enthusiastic as he pitched Jorgieliz Casanova and her fellow Promise students on applying for paid summer internships with his department as well as, upon their graduation, permanent positions. Higgins lit up as he heard each student’s brief story, offering a reason for each one to consider the Yale PD.
“The goal,” he said during a break, “is to grow and pick from our own garden. If a year from now we can hire two to three people from this program, it’s a successful start.”
Officer Barnes helped Higgins make that start. Before rushing to another 10-minute session, Casanova handed Barnes a copy of her resume. She said she definitely would like to try out that internship.