Aldermen hear public input on jobs pipeline

Drew Morrison ’14, left, the president of New Haven Action, testified before the human resources committee Thursday night.
Drew Morrison ’14, left, the president of New Haven Action, testified before the human resources committee Thursday night. Photo by Nick Defiesta.

The Board of Aldermen heard testimony Thursday night on a proposal for its long-awaited jobs initiative, one they hope will prepare residents for jobs within the city.

While the board’s human resources committee held a public hearing on the plan, locally called the jobs pipeline, residents testified in support of the idea, and offered suggestions to make the program more effective. The idea of a jobs pipeline has its origins in a slate of freshman labor-backed aldermen who campaigned last fall on bolstering city education and training initiatives for the types of jobs offered within city limits.

“I live in a community that is in desperate need of jobs, I live in a community where people want to work,” New Haven resident Maurice Caders said at the hearing Thursday. “I don’t want to see New Haven not [implement the pipeline.]”

Upon taking their seats in January, all 30 aldermen agreed upon a resolution that tasked a jobs pipeline working group with developing a proposal for putting New Haveners back to work. While New Haven has been the site of job growth in recent years, many of the gains have been in industries like biotechnology, which require education and skills that most city residents lack.

Ward 26 Alderman Sergio Rodriguez, who chairs the committee, said the Board is looking for a way to put residents back to work amidst the ongoing recession. New Haven’s unemployment rate for the month is 11.6 percent which, while down from 13.6 percent in July 2011, remains over 3 percent more than the national average of 8.2 percent.

More than 80 people attended the meeting, which began with a summary of the working group’s report examining current education, training and jobs programs. The group concluded that instead of creating a new program, the pipeline should focus its efforts on coordinating existing initiatives like the city’s Construction Workforce Initiative, efforts to work with formerly incarcerated residents and services offered at New Haven’s One Stop center.

“Currently there are local initiatives aimed at connecting targeted populations to jobs,” the report says. “Throughout the working group process, it became clear that the goal should not be to create new training programs, but to develop a coordinating entity that could bring coherence, organization and transparency, while enhancing the elements related to individual outreach, casework, follow-up and support services.”

After members of the working group presented their plan, New Haven residents spoke before the board about why the city needs the pipeline and what could be done to improve the proposal. Drew Morrison ’14, the president of Yale’s New Haven Action, suggested the board take advantage of the state’s First Five initiative that aids Connecticut employers who commit to adding a large number of jobs. Meanwhile, Elm City resident Alan Felder implored the Board to focus on young black men, who he said face a particularly steep disadvantage in the current economic environment.

The idea for the jobs pipeline, first proposed by winning aldermanic candidates endorsed by Yale’s unions last fall, was quickly embraced by Mayor John DeStefano Jr., who called for the program’s quick implementation in his February State of the City address. Aldermen on the human resources committee are now set to spend more time retooling the proposal before presenting it to the full board for approval.

According to the jobs pipeline working group, the New Haven labor market added 1,400 jobs in April, while Connecticut lost 4,100 jobs overall in the same month.

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