County youths find jobs scarce

by John Golden, Westfair Business Publications


Many youths are seeking jobs but not enough companies are offering them through state and county employment programs at the start of this summer.

Charles Barringer, left, and Joshua Schaeffer have mutually benefited from the county summer jobs program for youths.

In its third year, Westchester County’s Private Sector Summer Jobs Initiative, a joint effort of the public and private sectors, “is going a little bit slower in comparison to last year,” said Ebony White, the program’s coordinator at The Business Council of Westchester. As of June 19, 30 companies had signed up for the program with slightly more than 100 jobs to be filled.

“We are looking to push forward and make our goal of employing 200 kids in the county,” White said.


The jobs program, an initiative of the Business Council and the Westchester-Putnam Workforce Investment Board, last summer hired 184 youths through 55 businesses, generating about $60,000 in salaries. Of those hired, 25 young workers stayed on in permanent jobs.


The program was started in 2010 to reduce unemployment among county residents ages 18 to 24 as jobs-creating federal stimulus funding programs were about to expire after two years in the wake of the recession. The program this year offers no government subsidies for participating businesses.

In the program’s first year, “When the companies were getting paid, there were more placements,” said Marsha Gordon, the Business Council president and CEO and a workforce investment board director. “When there was a financial incentive, it obviously made a difference.”


Looking to encourage companies to train and hire disadvantaged youths in 12 cities and towns hardest hit by unemployment, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers this year created the New York Youth Works Program. Administered by the state Labor Department, it offers employer tax credits of up to $4,000 for eligible full-time workers between the ages of 16 and 24 and up to $2,000 for part-time workers hired. If the credit exceeds a company’s tax liability, the state will refund the excess amount to the employer.


In Westchester, the tax credits can be claimed for hired youths who reside in Mount Vernon, New Rochelle and Yonkers. But at the end of May, only about 20 businesses in those cities had signed up for the incentive program, while about 400 disadvantaged youths in the three cities were looking for jobs, according to a Labor Department official.

A Labor Department official in Westchester said more youths and more businesses in the three cities have since signed up for the program. Program figures requested by the Business Journal were not made available by the Labor Department.


The official said businesses only must be within a one-hour commuting distance from Mount Vernon, Yonkers and New Rochelle to qualify for the program. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Greenburgh, the state’s largest biotechnology employer, has joined the New York Youth Works program, according to the official.


At the Business Council, Gordon said summer job-seeking youths are competing with the county’s unemployed residents. “I would say it’s a very competitive environment,” she said.

A 19-year-old college student from White Plains, Joshua A. Schaeffer recently landed a job in Yorktown Heights after being referred to the Business Council and the private sector program. It took a lot of time and work on his part.


“I’ve been trying to get a job since December,” he said from his job at United Processing Corp., a five-employee company that sets up businesses for credit card processing. “It was just nonstop. I applied to so many places, I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count.”

An electrical engineering major at SUNY Binghamton, Schaeffer was too inexperienced in his field to land an internship at Westchester engineering firms. He contacted law firms and other professional offices without success. He sent more emails to engineering companies “to see if I could shadow them, just to get any sort of experience.”


His summer employer, United Processing, is using the private sector jobs program for the first time, said senior vice president Charles A. Barringer. Schaeffer’s was the first resume the company received from the Business Council, which screens applicants referred by local youth bureaus and agencies. The Yorktown Heights business expects to hire one more student this summer.


“In the past we’ve run a simple Pennysaver ad and have gotten a flood of resumes, and weeding through them has taken some time,” said Barringer. “The Business Council tries to narrow down the choices.”


Schaeffer is a welcomed addition to the office.


“Right now he’s not doing the most glamorous thing – digitizing files – but it’s extremely important for us,” said Barringer.


“If you’re looking to work in the private sector, you need that experience of what a private office looks like,” said the student’s employer. “We’re a small, entrepreneurial company that could afford to give them that experience.”