NEWARK, N.J. — Newark is tackling unemployment and underemployment with an innovative program. Harnessing the rich cross section of industries within its city limits, they are looking to get locals employed not just in jobs, but careers.
Nacreseshena Speed is one of those who made the transition with the help of a dedicated executive coach. "I went from having a job, worried about how to make ends meet, to actually having a career," she said.
The widowed mother of four used to work full time but struggled to care for her family. Too often she faced brutal decisions: Pay for her son's medication or feed the rest of her children.
But after connecting with the Newark 2020 program, she learned how to tap into more careers available in her field.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic posing new challenges, the program continues on.
According to Aisha Glover, the president and CEO of the Newark Alliance, which oversees the Newark 2020 initiative, they have moved the whole program online and are still getting residents connected to jobs, even as the economy suffers and millions are being laid off.
Glover says the program provides for, "Skill building and job readiness, but also zeroing in on industries that are unique to the city of Newark. There are several of our hospital partners who have hired from us and from the Newark 2020 talent pool."
Newark 2020 also provides scholarships to enroll in training for essential jobs in the health care industry and connecting people to pandemic-specific jobs.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka aims to connect the big businesses in his city with a workforce eager for not only a job, but a path forward.
As the country lurches toward a possible jobless rate of 25%, Baraka's goal to employ 2,000 over three years was reached ahead of schedule with the help of many corporate giants in Newark: From airlines, insurance and health care providers, to education, government and consumer-based companies.
Mayor Baraka pointing out that as the country reopens, we will need consumers with cash available. "You can open up all the businesses you want, but if there aren't any folks to patronize those businesses, it's no good," he said.
And as the city, state and nation grapple with layoffs and business closures, Baraka says they’re already focused on what the new work life will look like.
The program now has zoom sessions on resume building, virtual interviewing, researching connections and most importantly, an individual job coach. Better yet, all of these aspects are completely free
"There are actually jobs that are expanding and getting people ready for that," Baraka said.
Nacreseshna said that even in uncertain times, her career stayed steady. "I have four children. Thankfully they were able to set us up, working from home, so that we can continue to work and I can provide for my children."