MOTT HAVEN — A new job training and education center will officially open its doors in the heart of the South Bronx on Wednesday.
The site, at 424 East 147th St., is run by the workforce development company America Works, which specializes in finding jobs for people who are traditionally hard to place, including welfare recipients and former criminals.
It offers several different services to its clients, with a standard class that consists mainly of shoring up the basic skills they will need to have a successful job application and job interview, according to Lee Bowes, CEO of the company.
"Their resumes always need work," she said, "but they also need work with their interview attire."
The company helps provide substance abuse evaluations as well, along with professional development courses for people once they find jobs and literacy classes that teach basic English and math skills. The new site also serves as a place for people to take their high school equivalency test.
All programming at America Works is free, and people typically get assigned to the company through the city or hear about it via word of mouth, Bowes said.
America Works acquired its new Bronx building in March and has been steadily building up its staff, systems and furnishings since then. The company has already helped about 300 people find jobs, according to Bowes.
One of those them is 27-year-old Christopher Groom, who said he went to America Works for help in March and is now working as a security guard with AlliedBarton.
"Their leads are great. They know the managers," he said. "It’s really hard not to get a job through America Works when a person knows who the manager is."
Groom was previously referred to America Works at age 17, when they helped him find work as a porter.
"I needed to find a job," he said. "I was in foster care, and the foster care agency referred me to America Works."
The 30,000-square-foot site will officially open on Wednesday with a 3 p.m. ribbon cutting ceremony.
America Works currently has locations across the country and within the city in Midtown, Brooklyn Heights, Jamaica and Far Rockaway. Bowes said the company was very excited to launch its South Bronx location, as the area has a relatively large amount of low-income residents and English language learners who can get more use from their services than people in other parts of New York.
"As New York City has gentrified, many of the boroughs that we work in, including Brooklyn and Queens, have become places where there are very few of those individuals left compared to 10 years ago," she said. "The Bronx still has a lot of less expensive apartments, which people can afford to live in, so it’s the largest population that we target in the city. So that's the reason we wanted to be there."
The unemployment rate in Bronx County was 8.3 percent as of April 2015, the second highest in the state behind Hamilton County, according to the New York Department of Labor.
America Works has new people starting its programs every day, and there is no set amount of time for how long they will remain with the company, Bowes said. Rather, they stay with America Works for as long as they need to.
"It could be a Tuesday, and they could get hired the following week, or they could get started on Wednesday, and six months later, we’re still working with them on a whole host of issues," she said. "It really depends on the person: what their skill set is and what they need us to do."