THE BRONX — It was bring your masks and your resumes at a job fair in the Bronx.
Because of COVID-19, the process of getting a job has completely changed.
Over 70 employers met with hundreds of people virtually and in person at a parking lot on Crotona Avenue at the VIP — Vocational Instruction Project — Community Services annual job fair.
Robert Lester, from the Bronx, had his mask on and dozens of copies of his resume in hand. Lester’s hopes were high that he will finally land a job.
“I’ve been looking for a year and a half now, and the pandemic made it that much worse. I want to work. I need a job. I want to support myself,” said Lester.
This year, tables and tents were set up outside. Job applicants stayed six feet apart, masks were mandatory, and most of the interviews and interactions were done virtually.
Organizers said it’s one of the first job fairs in the Bronx since the pandemic started, with more than 70 companies participating and ready to hire now.
Employers included hospitals, restaurants, universities, and a range of corporations, from Amazon to the Bronx Zoo.
Bronx Councilmember Vanessa Gibson said the Bronx got hit the hardest — first by COVID-19, and now by unemployment.
According to the New York State Labor Department, the unemployment rate for July 2020 in New York City was 20%, compared to 4.3% the same month last year. The unemployment rate in the Bronx for July 2020 was at 24.9%, the worst in the state.
“It’s quite desperate. A lot of people are out of jobs. This is rebuilding the Bronx,” said Debbian Fletcher-Blake, the CEO of VIP Community Services.
J. Calvin Parsons is the director of human resources at Children of Promise NYC, a non-profit that helps children of formerly incarcerated people get social services. Parsons is looking to add 35 to his team right away. “We understand people have different pasts and that’s OK. We want people who want to help children,” said Parsons.