New Haven Works linking city residents to jobs at Yale

A resident of New Haven since 2008, Osikhena Awudu had applied to quite a few jobs in New Haven for years — but without much success. “I, like countless New Haven residents, had been applying for positions without a single invitation to interview,” he recalls.

After his job was outsourced overseas a few years back, Awudu took various retail and paralegal jobs to make ends meet. He worked briefly as a paralegal in Hartford, but he wanted to work and stay in New Haven. Particularly, he was interested in working at Yale.

“I was drawn to Yale University by its world-renowned reputation, its rich culture, and the great employee benefits,” he says. But at the time, he did not know anyone who had intimate knowledge of open positions at the University or could tell him how to get his résumé noticed.

But now he does — an entire team of people, in fact.

Awudu is one of many city residents registered with New Haven Works, a non-profit established as a joint initiative of the Board of Alderman, local employers (including Yale), labor unions, and local residents. Led by executive director Mary Reynolds, New Haven Works is a local model for addressing a national issue: unemployment and underemployment in urban areas.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony for New Haven Works on June 5, Awudu expressed his appreciation: “Thanks to the New Haven Works program, I recently accepted a regular position at the Yale Law School. The program provided a very unique opportunity to prepare candidates and link them with human resources. It is so good for the New Haven community.”

Through agreements with employers and ongoing case management, New Haven Works provides the tools that businesses need to ease the recruitment of local candidates, and ensures that New Haven residents receive the support and training needed to be ready to work in today’s competitive job market — creating a local “jobs pipeline.”

“New Haven is full of talented and skilled residents who are looking for work, and New Haven Works will match and refer them to employers who are looking for both pre-screened applicants and ways to save money,” says Reynolds.

In addition, Yale established its own department, called the New Haven Community Hiring Initiatives, to connect New Haven Works candidates directly with the University’s Human Resources staffing group. Under the direction of Diane Turner, Yale’s program also works with high schools, college trade schools, and social agencies to connect residents with internships, externships, and specific training opportunities.

 “Yale’s goal in developing this internal ‘pipeline’ is to provide laser focus on our effort to reduce the unemployment rate of residents in the city of New Haven,” states Turner. “We are committed to working tirelessly with New Haven Works, community agencies, colleges, and universities, as well as the high school populations to insure that there are pathways and job opportunities here at Yale."

It was only a matter of a few weeks after Awudu registered with New Haven Works that he began his first day on the job at Yale. During this time, he attended an New Haven Works’ orientation and met with a Yale Human Resources specialist several times to discuss his background, skills, and interests.

The HR recruiter was “friendly and nice,” said Awudu, and gave helpful tips and pointers about what types of positions he should apply for, based on his specific qualifications and interests. The HR recruiter forwarded positions she felt fit his profile.

In 2012 alone, Yale received more than 80,000 résumés from applicants, but posted only about 1,600 vacant positions. While 40% of current staff live in New Haven, a greater emphasis is being placed on providing additional support for those who are unemployed and underemployed in the city, as a part of building a stronger economic base.

“The alignment of the University’s and New Haven’s interests really benefit everybody, and the most obvious is creating employment and economic development,” said President-elect Peter Salovey at the ceremony. “Over 50% of Yale’s newly hired employees either became or already were New Haven residents. That’s 818 employees — 518 have full-time jobs and 300 have found temporary assignments.”

Both New Haven Mayor John DeStefano and Governor Dannel Malloy echoed these sentiments.

“When you’re a Connecticut city, it means that you’re very different than the other communities around you. We’re not just about some people; we are about everybody,” emphasized DeStefano. “Work is essential to who we are, and what our children can be. … [Launching New Haven Works] has shown extraordinary teamwork among the Board of Alderman, the Yale unions, and the University.”

Malloy added, “This is a great moment … to be here with people who really just want to see New Haven and Connecticut do well. That’s what this is all about: making sure that we bring our cities back. … I just want to say to Yale and everyone’s who shown great fortitude and patience: ‘Thank you.’ Thank you because people in this room will benefit, and the children of people in this room will benefit, and they have future beneficiaries. This is going to be great stuff: what Yale is doing, what we’re doing together, and that cooperation is possible in these economic circumstances.”

Other speakers at the ceremony included Jorge Perez, chair of New Haven Works’ board of directors and president of the New Haven Board of Alderman; Tony Rescigno, president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce; and George Jepsen, Connecticut attorney general.

Another employee who has found success at Yale and spoke at the ceremony was Josué Rodriguez. He had been working in information technology since high school. After he began attending Southern Connecticut University, he started to learn more about engineering and computer science. But once he started a family, he found paying his own college tuition increasingly difficult, and had to leave the university.

Without a degree, Rodriguez found it a challenge to obtain IT employment.

Last March Rodriguez registered with New Haven Works. He recalls how surprised he was at the speed of the process: “I had registered with New Haven Works in March, and met with Yale HR on a Thursday for a general interview. I was blown away when I got the call the following Monday from the Yale Forestry School for a temporary position. Now, I am in central IT at the HelpDesk, and I’ve been there for three weeks.”

“I have been pleasantly surprised, because they got me results.”

This is the type of success that both Reynolds and Turner hope to build upon, collaboratively with other employers in the city.

At Yale, specifically, Turner hopes to raise awareness of how effective this approach to hiring can be for supervisors throughout the campus. “Outreach to hiring managers to match pre-screened and qualified candidates has already begun,” she says. “The quality and desire of these candidates to work is inspiring.”

For more information about the programs, visit either the New Haven Works or Yale’s New Haven Community Hiring Initiatives websites.

Photos: New Haven Works ribbon-cutting

“Work is essential to who we are, and what our children can be," said New Haven Mayor John DeStefano at the ceremony.
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen was among the officials on hand.
Osikhena Awudu, who recently secured a job at Yale through New Haven Works, said: "The program provided a very unique opportunity to prepare candidates and link them with human resources. It is so good for the New Haven community.”
Josué Rodriguez, another city resident who found employment at Yale through New Haven Works, said: “I have been pleasantly surprised, because they got me results.”
Noting that more than 50% of Yale's new hires either were or had become New Haven residents, Yale President-elect Peter Salovey said: “The alignment of the University’s and New Haven’s interests really benefit everybody, and the most obvious is creating employment and economic development.”
Governor Dannel Malloy thanked all those who had worked together to create the New Haven Works program "because people in this room will benefit, and the children of people in this room will benefit, and they have future beneficiaries."
The ceremonial cutting of the ribbon.
Osikhena Awudu (left) joins members of the New Haven Works board of directors and executive director Mary Reynolds (center).
The University and its unions — represented here by (from left) Local 35 president Bob Proto and Yale vice presidents Bruce Alexander and Mike Peel — supported the establishment of New Haven Works.
Diane Turner (in white), head of Yale's New Haven Community Hiring Initiatives department, poses with Yale community members — including some of its latest hires.
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