Residents, parents, and educators consistently urge the city and the Rochester school district to do more to prepare young people who aren't college-bound for careers in the trades. Many Rochester residents who are chronically unemployed — often women, African Americans, and Latinos — could benefit from the training, too.
Reaching Occupational Achievement for Residents in Rochester, a program launched more than a year ago, was supposed to help address the problem. More than 1,000 residents signed up for the six-month job preparation program, says City Council member Loretta Scott, but only 156 trainees made it to the end.
"I've found that if you can get people employed, it alleviates a lot of other problems," Scott says. "So I've been tracking it. And I was told that only about 43 of them are employed today. That's less than one-third."
Scott says it's unclear why so few of ROAR's initial applicants graduated, and then why so few of the graduates are employed. And she says she's frustrated by the lack of follow-through on a program that began with so much promise.
ROAR was created by the Rochester Joint Construction Board to recruit city residents for construction jobs on the $325 million first phase of the schools modernization project.
ROAR's proponents say that electricians, carpenters, painters, masons, and plumbers are paid well, and that the jobs typically can't be outsourced.
And while the massive rehabilitation of city school district buildings did create some jobs, Scott says, there were also unanticipated challenges.
"Our system was not prepared to absorb that many people at one time," she says. "The project was not far enough along. And they all have different trades — electricians, painters, carpenters — and they're not all needed at the same time. It was a workflow issue."
Scott says she has no evidence that contractors and local labor unions were not hiring minorities.
"I think the problem was that this was not well thought out," Scott says.
City Council member Loretta Scott says it's unclear why so few of ROAR's initial applicants graduated, and then why so few of the graduates are employed. And she says she's frustrated by the lack of follow-through on a program that began with so much promise.