With the city's unemployment rate at 8.7 percent, and the rate in Queens at 7.7 percent, mayoral candidate Bill Thompson last week announced a new plan to create jobs if he is elected ó and he unveiled it in Long Island City.
Thompson offered a multifaceted proposal designed to coordinate the efforts of various city agencies and nonprofit groups; increase state support for employers to help workers further their education; force the Department of Education to adopt a more work-oriented curriculum; and provide "vulnerable New Yorkers," especially those who have been released from prison, with the training they need to succeed in the workplace.
Thompson announced the plan last Thursday at the Finishing Trades Institute of New York, speaking to a crowd of public housing residents who are enrolled in a training program run by District Council 9 of the Painters and Allied Trades Union ó which also endorsed him during the event.
"New Yorkers continue to face economic challenges and so many of our neighbors are trapped and underemployed in jobs with no benefits," said Thompson, who is running in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary. "As mayor, I will build a diverse economy that restores our middle class, produces good living-wage jobs, helps small businesses grow into large ones and will spread economic growth throughout the five boroughs."
DC 9 made its support for Thompson and his plan clear, calling it common sense.
"Bill Thompson is the only candidate with the vision to educate and diversify New York City's workforce today for the jobs of tomorrow," said Joe Ramaglia, the union's business manager. "Bill Thompson knows that in order to strengthen the city's economy, we need to make sure that our working men and women are armed with the skill-set to fill jobs."
Key to Thompson's proposal is the creation of a new position, chief jobs officer, whose task it will be to promote coordination between different agencies and oversee training, employment and workforce development programs.
He later told the Queens Chronicle, "Theyíre not working together, they're not coordinated. I think we need to bring them under one roof, and also have someone who interacts with the private sector, someone who's coordinating with people and preparing them — not just for the jobs that exist today, but the jobs that will exist tomorrow, and better-paying jobs."
He said the ideal candidate for the post is someone who knows how to deal with the private sector, but that it doesnít have to be someone working there now.
Thompson also plans to:
• fight for an increase in state funding for employee education training from $96 million to $120 million;
• force the city Department of Education, which he used to head as president of the old Board of Education, to adopt a work-oriented curriculum including training in accounting, manufacturing, technology and healthcare.
• use the city's business improvement districts and nonprofit groups to identify the skills needed to grow businesses; and
• assist those at the bottom, "especially formerly incarcerated New Yorkers," to get the skills they need to get jobs in today's economy.
Speaking of the education aspect, Thompson said, "There are so many areas where we can create opportunities for young people, whether it's going on to college or preparing for the workforce. We want to create opportunity for every student."