A turnaround chance for the unemployed
A $100,000 grant from the New York State Regional Economic Development Council recently awarded to St. Joseph’s College will hopefully change the lives of 170 unemployed workers, including veterans.
Suffolk County Community College, who has partnered with St. Joseph’s in the REDC grant process, will focus on offering manufacturing skills to the jobless candidates. It is SCCC’s first collaboration with SJC.
Approximately six courses taught by St. Joseph’s professors, instructors and industry professionals, including career counseling and basic workforce skills, will be held at the Huntington Opportunity Resource Center in Huntington Station, where SJC has had an established relationship. The SCCC courses will be taught at their Brentwood campus and other locations.
Gail Lamberta, Ph.D., SJC’s associate dean for community development, wrote the grant. “This grant is specific to the Huntington area, but moving forward, it might be offered here as well,” she said in her Patchogue office last week.
Chris Frost, St. Joseph’s College senior vice president and vice president of academic affairs at the Long Island campus, said while SJC had been involved with the LaunchPad Huntington and Huntington Station Business Incubator, “Gail is right,” adding the grant was a good first step towards what the college wants to do. “By no means are we just focusing on just that area. We do want to do this across Long Island,” he said.
Frost said the REDC workforce grant “is part of a blueprint for our Center for Community Solutions and how we make Long Island and Suffolk County more livable, with jobs, hospitality, quality of life.”
The college has hit a trifecta in grant money so far with REDC; in 2013 it was awarded almost $1 million in REDC funding to expand its hospitality and tourism program and last year they received $663,000 to expand their nursing programs.
The SJC courses are expected to kick off in February 2016 and wrap up in December; courses will run an average of six weeks, but others may be offered in eight- or four-week time spans, Lamberta said, with hours that could accommodate someone working or volunteering part-time.
“Hospitality and leisure has been a growing area and some positions don’t necessarily require a degree to work in hotels and restaurants,” she explained. “Here we still have support staff needed so the programs we’ll address will be career development, career counseling, interview skills, dress for success and basic skills like math, computers, writing and guest services. We’ll talk about the work ethic, how to communicate with guests. Sometimes they don’t know how to communicate and that could be someone interested in being wait staff.”
John Lombardo, Suffolk County Community College associate vice president for workforce and economic development, said his college would concentrate on two main areas.
“What we offer is an advanced introduction to manufacturing that covers a number of functions and gives the unemployed a foundation,” he said. “And what was also very successful in a previous REDC grant award was a soldering course taught by a talented soldering instructor that provides a framework and a certification at a federal level.”
Lombardo said a similar program was offered to support the Wyandanch Rising project. “We trained over 32 people and most got jobs,” he said. “This particular skill is very much needed on Long Island; it’s a skill anyone can learn — men, women, young kids — and they can have a very good career.”
Lombardo said they’ve projected two classes of up to 16 people for soldering; the potential exists for 20 for the introduction to manufacturing classes. “The soldering instruction will take place at our Brentwood campus, where we have a nationally certified lab; the introduction to manufacturing courses can be offered off-site at a location that’s comfortable to the community.”
The Huntington Station connection occurred when Lamberta and Frost were investigating creating an incubator; they discovered the Huntington Station Business Incubator in 2013.
“It was my interest in learning about this that created this partnership,” she said.
Lamberta also lives in Huntington and knew about some of the challenges there, crime and a Latino population that needed resources.
“Huntington Station has been identified as a priority area,” she explained. “There are jobs available but a disconnect with skill sets.”
Lamberta forged relationships with Joan Cergol, executive director of the Town of Huntington Economic Development Corporation, and Councilwoman Tracey A. Edwards. SJC offers workshops once a month at the Huntington Station Business Incubator.
“They do a survey,” she said. “We fill in those needs. We’ve had a strong presence in Melville and the township.”
Frost credited Lamberta for her efforts. “That’s what she spends her days doing,” Frost said. “Being out in the community and finding groups across government and education lines to collaborate with, and instead of operating in a vacuum, becoming aware of what other people are doing. It’s essential to our long-term vision.”
Lamberta is a co-founder of the Blue Stars and Yellow Ribbons Veterans Initiative at SJC; she also joined the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Strategic Planning Council and the advisory council for the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Regional STEM High School.
Lamberta emphasized that joint efforts are essential. “The only way to move these programs together are partnerships and collaborative efforts,” she said. “If you do that, you can come up with ideas and pull it all together.”
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