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City Job Fair Attracts Thousands Amid Hiring Crisis

ELIZABETH ERB, HOST: The city held a job fair this morning as it scrambles to fill thousands of vacancies amidst a hiring crisis. It’s trying to lure workers with the first raise since before the pandemic and the potential of remote work. The event’s tagline? “Serve your city, fulfil your dreams.” Henrietta McFarlane headed to the fair to see if the strategy works.

HENRIETTA MCFARLANE, BYLINE: It’s not even 10am yet, and a long line of job seekers is forming outside PS 366 in Inwood. They’re all here for a chance to chat with recruiters. The day is heating up and beads of sweat are forming on some of the candidate’s faces.

(Hi, good morning. You can just go right on in.)

MCFARLANE: The event is taking place in the school gym. There are squeaky wooden floors and basketball nets at each end. The space is crowded with job seekers wearing suits and carrying resumes. You can’t miss a big blue and white banner which reads “Serve your city, fulfil your dreams.” The room is lined with tables mostly covered with blue tablecloths. But Kunga Tenpa is sitting at a table covered in yellow and a golden yellow most New Yorkers know well.

MCFARLANE: Why did you guys go for yellow? Everyone else seems to have gone for blue?

KUNGA TENPA: The yellow cabs are the main icon of New York City. I do vehicle inspection for taxi and limousine.

MCFARLANE: Do you fulfill your dreams everyday when you come to work?

TENPA: Yes, I do. I think about my my parents. When they get a cab. I know they're safe. So I feel good with that.

MCFARLANE: But it’s more than a good feeling Tenpa is trying to sell to job seekers today. It’s dream jobs. A couple of tables away, that strategy seems to be working at the Department of Education. It seems to be very popular. The line is so long it’s disrupting the other ones. Denise Cifuensas waits in line. So tell me what you have in front of you? A very detailed annotated plan of some sort?

DENISE CIFUENSAS: So I have the hiring plan. Then I have my resume.

MCFARLANE: Cifuensas wanted to make sure she was really prepared. So she has a piece of paper with all the tables. She’s circle the employers she wants to see. Her dream is to work with children in some way. Employers across city departments from Parks to Health to Education are hoping to fill these roles as soon as possible. Thea Setterbo works with the union. She says she hopes some new changes for city employees brought about by their union DC 37 will help the role seem more appealing. Change number one - a pay raise.

THEA SETTERBO: Our city workers have not received a raise since before the pandemic.

MCFARLANE: They can now look forward to a 3 percent raise. And change number 2 - there's now the possibility of remote work. That’s something the city’s been against.

SETTERBO: The flexible work committee is meeting now and coming up with those recommendations for how we will pilot remote work and the other flexible work options.

MCFARLANE: But for some here today, a job isn’t a dream. It’s just a way to get a pay cheque. James Byrd is also in line at the Department of Education desk. He’s holding a couple of copies of his resume. Do you think this job would fulfil your dreams?

JAMES BYRD: My dreams (laughter). My dreams are a whole lot bigger than any company or job can deliver.

MCFARLANE: At the far end of the room, Bernese Nyruku sits slumped on a bench. She needs a minute before we speak. She’d just interviewed for a position at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, but they hadn’t taken her forward.

BERNESE NYRUKU: So my resume is not up to date. So I've been given the guidelines to update it, and then come back the next time.

MCFARLANE: Nyruku is still hopeful that once she’s updated her resume, she’ll be able to get a job. Back across the gym at the taxi and limousine stand, Kunga Tenpa is excited. He’s already found a few candidates he wants to move through to the next round. That’s the city’s dream. Henrietta McFarlane, Columbia Radio News.

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