While the economy seems to be recovering, albeit slowly, many businesses are still wary of hiring new workers.
In an effort to help unemployed or underemployed Queens residents become more attractive applicants, the Business Leaders of Tomorrow Leadership Empowerment Center in Richmond Hill is offering free technology training, job placement assistance and coaching for self-empowerment skills.
The center provides one-on-one support through courses like computer literacy training, and boasts an inclusive, motivational learning environment for adults and teens, including at-risk youth.
To participate, you just have to ask for an appointment and show identification.
The purpose of the BLOTLEC program is to enable job seekers to meet the demands of a tight, competitive job market, in which hiring works differently than in the past.
After participants master each level of keyboarding, they are taught Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and receive coaching in resume writing and “job readiness” skills. Upon completion of the program, participants receive certificates.
“Individuals who need to retrain and develop computer skills can utilize our computers to create resumes which they send to prospective employers, and can download and submit job applications online from many job search sites,” said Rachel Gordon, who wears many hats as BLOTLEC’s executive director, instructor and in-house mentor.
Sandra Gonsalves, a stay-at-home mom from Hollis and former mortgage processor, is one of the program’s participants and is enrolled in a computer literacy class.
“I’m ready to get back into the workforce and retrain in my field,” Gonsalves said. “You have to upgrade your skills these days, and my goal right now is to master keyboarding.”
Mary Gainlann, another student from Hollis, who is unemployed and would like to retrain as a bookkeeper, said she like’s the center’s environment. “We feel so comfortable here,” Gainlann said. “There’s no pressure.”
Deborah Effenberger from Flushing, formerly an administrative assistant for a communications company that went bankrupt, is also unemployed. Her goal is to continue with administrative work, but down the road she envisions herself as an entrepreneur with a home-based jewelry business.
“I would donate part of the proceeds to charitable organizations,” she said. “I also volunteer here and would like to work for a nonprofit one day to gain experience.”
Gonsalves, Gainlann and Effenberger, who all emigrated from Guyana more than 10 years ago, said they are benefitting from the warm, nurturing atmosphere at the center and emphasized Gordon’s patient teaching style.
Gordon says about 25 percent of the center’s participants have found jobs using the systems and resources BLOTLEC offers. She hopes to turn the training program into a business school in the future and is in the process of obtaining a license from the state Department of Education.
While BLOTLEC provides baseline skills, many participants go on to complete more specific occupational training elsewhere, Gordon said. Some get referrals to city-funded job training providers who offer programs based on individuals’ interest.
For all the work she does, Gordon doesn’t get paid. But she says that’s OK.
“This center is not about money,” she said. “It’s about helping people here to help each other. … It’s important for everyone in this world to understand that no matter what their circumstances are, there’s an entrepreneur within them.”