Bringing jobs to disadvantaged communities like Hempstead, in Nassau County Long Island, has always been challenging. Finding skilled workers in these communities is not always easy and when you do find them, it is often difficult to convince employers, banks and insurance companies to take a chance on them. In the construction industry, try securing a surety bond for a minority contractor. The lack of bonding is often the reason minorities are left out of large public works projects. But Reverend Reginald Benjamin is about to change this.
On Tuesday, September 24th, Reverend Benjamin visited the Oriska Jobs and Careers Center’s Apprenticeship Training Program at the Maritime College in the Bronx to put in place all the elements needed to launch his own Jobs and Small Business Referral Center. Benjamin was chosen by the Village of Hempstead to run the Jobs and Small Business Referral Center as part of the Community Benefit Agreement that guarantees 25% of the union jobs associated with the Hempstead Downtown Revitalization project go to local workers.
“I’m determined to make sure that our local workers have the skills, opportunities and resources they need to benefit from the jobs that the revitalization project will create,” said Benjamin. “These jobs have been earmarked for local workers and I’m going to make sure that there are no reasons for the developer or anyone to use loop holes so out-of-town workers get these union jobs.”
Closing all the Loopholes
The Hempstead Revitalization Project will create up to 10,000 jobs in the village and $2.5 Millions of investment. Twenty-five percent of those jobs, or approximately 2500, should go to local workers who now suffer from higher than normal unemployment. Reverend Benjamin is acutely aware of the challenges he faces.
“Many minority workers are excluded from prevailing wages jobs and apprenticeship programs because there is a perceived skills deficit. So we are partnering with Oriska Jobs and Careers Center, who have a long history of placing minority workers into apprenticeship positions and on the road to journeyman.”
Benjamin must ensure that local workers have the skills necessary to do the work and to ensure that local minority contractors have access to surety bonding. “Too often minority contractors who could provide jobs to the community are sidelined because they can’t get bonding. We are putting together a comprehensive program to guarantee the skills and the bonds. This is how we will get Hempstead back to work.”
Earning Political Support
On September 17th the Village of Hempstead Board Trustees voted Benjamin in as Director of the Jobs and Small Business Referral Center. “Mayor Wayne J. Hall has met with us to discuss our plans and he has been a big supporter of these types of efforts. By creating such a comprehensive program, not only will his faith in us be rewarded, but we hope to team up with other political leaders once they see the results.”