Economic Development

Taft Job Fair Brings Opportunity to Residents

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – After losing his job Oct. 30, Jason Ray, a resident of the East Side, is looking for a new direction in the workforce.

“I have a lot of experience in industrial work and at warehouses,” he said Thursday. “Right now I’m trying to get some different training and get more experience under my belt other than just warehouse work. I want to have a career in something electrical.”

Ray is one of the city residents who attended the Taft Promise Neighborhood Job Fair at Youngstown Metro Assembly Church on South Avenue. He is interested in a career with a company such as Ohio Edison, but first needs a job to pay his bills. “Once I get employed,” he said, “I can think about school and a career.”

The Taft Promise Neighborhood initiative works with more than 40 organizations whose goals are revitalizing and strengthening the community through education, job training, health and wellness, neighborhood safety and resident engagement.

Seventeen recruiters from local institutions, businesses, and organizations took employment applications and resumes. Among them were the Youngstown City School District, Rite Aid, SafeHouse Residential Services and Raphael’s Barber Academy.

Said Ray of his attendance at the job fair: “They give you a lot of information, valuable resources and they give you help as far as legal aid if you need it.”

A friend of Ray’s who works for Taft Promise, Dionne Dowdy, referred him to the job fair. Dowdy is a volunteer in AmeriCorps Vista.

“We brought the community in the neighborhood here to see what their needs were and one of them was employment, so we thought that we would do a job fair,” Dowdy said.

Leading up to the fair, Taft Promise held weekly classes for a month to teach participants soft skills — a good work ethic, computer skills and how to prepare their resumes. “We teach them the attitude of working, being in a workplace, being on time, being respectful, and getting a long with others,” Dowdy said.

The classes will continue as an ongoing program to prepare residents for the next job fair in the spring.

“Some people think TPN just looks at Taft Elementary School and that neighborhood around it,” said its executive director, April Alexander, “but our boundaries are from Market Street to Shady Run Road, and Midlothian Boulevard to Indianola Avenue. So we’re looking at a large radius.”

At the job fair, the Common Wealth Kitchen Incubator offered to support anyone interested in becoming an entrepreneur in the food business. “If they have ideas, they can come see us and we will help coach them through the whole process,” said Scott Dougherty, kitchen manager. “It’s a way to help local people build themselves up.”

The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. accepted resumes from all interested in working for the organization. “We’re trying to be a good resource to people in our community. Especially those who don’t actively go out and seek jobs every day,” said Alaina Wells, an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer assigned to YNDC.

Recruiters from OhioMeansJobs helps both those seeking jobs and employers. “Rather than going through Indeed, Monster, or ZipRecruiter, where you have to pay to post job openings, you can post on OhioMeansJobs at no cost to the employer,” said Cyndy Bresnahan, business services manager. OhioMeansJobs also accepted resumes to post on its website. It can prescreen applicants for employers.

Some of the businesses at the fair were actively looking to hire people who served time in prison for felonies. “It’s important for people to understand that we are a friend for people that are trying to get good employment,” Alexander said. “We let people know which employers are felon-friendly and some are not.”

Also on hand were attorneys from Community Legal Aid Services who conducted legal clinics, at no cost, to help job seekers with issues getting a driver’s license, provide advice on obtaining a Certificate of Qualification for Employment, or help with other obstacles to employment.

“There are barriers to people getting employment like criminal records, and in our community having a driver’s license and being able to have transportation to and from work is important,” said Patricia Dougan, attorney for Community Legal Aid. “Because we don’t have a huge transportation system.”

Said Dowdy in assessing the job fair: “People like to have convenience. So if you can get everything done in one place, that’s important. It makes the residents feel they’ve accomplished something and that’s what we want them to feel. We want to give them hope again.”

Pictured at top: Dionne Dowdy, AmeriCorps Vista for Taft Neighborhood Promise, and April Alexander, executive director of Taft Promise Neighborhood, organized the job fair.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.