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Be advocates for unemployed, officials running jobs center in Allentown's NIZ urged

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Sep 12 2013 03:21:28 PM CDT
Nancy Dischinat, executive director of the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, addresses Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority meeting

Nancy Dischinat of the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board addresses Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Officials running a newly opened job center in the heart of Allentown's Neighborhood improvement Zone were urged to become advocates for the people in the surrounding neighborhoods that they are trying to help.

Nancy Dischinat, executive director of the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, discussed the center, which opened on Labor Day, at Wednesday's meeting of the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority.

Dischinat said 207 people have come to the Allentown Employment and Training Center at Lehigh Carbon Community College's the Donley Campus near 7th and Hamilton streets in its first week of operation, with between 65 and 85 job seekers visiting on the first day.

Most of them were from downtown Allentown, Dischinat noted.

Authority member Alan Jennings asked Dischinat if the center would be "advocating" for job seekers from the low-income neighborhoods in and around the NIZ. He suggested the center help in "nudging the system along" for those people.

Dischinat said it wasn't possible to advocate individually for each job seeker, but the center could let people know what additional skills they may need for a particular job.

"We opened not knowing where all the jobs [in the NIZ] are," Dischinat told tbe authority. "If you don't have a list of jobs to hand [job seekers], then they think there's nothing for them."

Before Dischinat's presentation, when authority members were discussing their operating guidelines, Jennings said all job vacancies in the NIZ should be required to be reported to the center, "whether they're for lawyers or housekeepers at a hotel."

The center is staffed by two people, both bi-lingual, and is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Friday, and 9 a.m.-noon Saturday.

In other business, Greg Butz, president and CEO of Alvin H. Butz, Inc., reported that 19 percent of contractors and 16 percent of workers involved in the hockey arena project were either women or minorities.

Authority member Dr. Ethel Drayton-Craig told Butz she wants to see those overall statistics broken down into actual numbers for blacks, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans, as well as for men and women. "I don't know what that [the percentages] looks like. Who are these people?" she said.

Authority member Robert Lovett also asked that Butz supply the number of Allentown residents who make up those numbers.

The authority also adopted what chairman Seymour Traub called "the rules of the road" for public participation at ANIZDA meetngs.

In general, public participation will be limited to 45 minutes at each meeting, with each speaker allowed up to three minutes. Comments and questions must be about maters before the authority.

A draft of the rules allowed only the chairman the discretion to modify the rules, but after some discussion among authority members and input from the public, the rules were changed so that authority members can request that they be modified in specific cases.

To help public participation, authority executive director Sara Hailstone said agendas and resolutions that will be considered will be posted as often as possible on the authority Web site 48 hours before the authority meets.