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Employment doors opening for young; N.Y. Youth Works sets incentives for hiring by firms like GEICO and Ingram Micro

GEICO and Ingram Micro are hiring. And Buffalo's underprivileged young people -- often considered last for jobs -- will have first chance at some positions.

The local companies are part of the New York Youth Works Program a twofold $87 million initiative to combat chronic joblessness among disadvantaged young people with workplace training and $3,000 tax credits to businesses that hire them.

The area's unemployment rate is 7.9 percent, but it's 24.6 percent for Buffalo's younger residents.

"GEICO is glad to be on board; we have hundreds of positions to fill," said Carl V. Camardo, the insurance company's hiring manager. "We're glad the Department of Labor will help train them to get them into these jobs." GEICO is looking for sales, service and claims reps. And salaries start at $30,000.

The program has available a total of $25 million in tax credits for qualified businesses and $62 million for job training for eligible young people, ages 16 to 24, with the goal of placing them in permanent, unsubsidized positions.

Camardo said that the tax credit is an incentive but that as native Buffalonian, he sees the program as an opportunity to give back to the community.

"It's just a tremendous win-win for everybody," he said. "We've got the room, and we'll take as many as we can get."

New York Youth Works was unveiled Thursday during a news conference at the New York State Department of Labor's Division of Employment on Main Street. Buffalo is one of 12 municipalities across the state with an especially high unemployment rate among young people that will participate.

"These are people who are not given opportunity right off the bat," said Rachel D. Gold, special counsel for the Department of Labor. The program "will bring kids into the work force and give kids an opportunity," she said.

Participants must be unemployed and meet at least one of 12 criteria that include being a member of a family that receives public assistance or being a parent, pregnant or homeless. Participants will receive occupational training at local One-Stop Career centers. Gold said training will also cover life skills.

"They'll learn how to get up, show up, be polite and be a part of a team," she said.

Gold was joined by State Sens. Timothy M. Kennedy, D-Buffalo, and Mark J. Grisanti, R-Buffalo, and Deputy Erie County Executive Richard M. Tobe in praising Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who signed the program into law last December. The youth employment initiative is part of the governor's New York Works Agenda.

Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, who helped bring the youth unemployment problem to the governor's attention and design the program, said that the application process is simple and that eligible job seekers should apply immediately.

"For too long, unemployment has been too high among our youth, and the New York Youth Works program will bring together businesses and government to invest in these young New Yorkers," she said.

Businesses and job seekers must be certified through an application process. Companies have to apply by June 1 and hire certified applicants by July 1 to receive the tax credit. To become certified, a firm must be within a 90-minute commute and have openings that are considered "in-demand" jobs.

The $3,000 tax credit per hire is meant to be a wage subsidy, granted in increments for up to six months. Businesses that keep workers for an additional six months can receive an additional $1,000 in tax credits for each worker.

Ingram Micro and GEICO were certified two weeks ago, and they are among the two dozen companies across the state that are currently enrolled in the program.

"It's a great way to introduce youth to the workplace," said Matthew Rogers, human resources coordinator for Ingram Micro. Rogers said the company has openings for office service associates and sales coordinators, both administrative positions.

Both companies have permanent full- and part-time positions that don't require college degrees. Camardo said GEICO has a college tuition reimbursement program, so while a degree isn't required to land a job, getting hired could lead to a degree. "We can provide that piece, and that excites me even more," Camardo said.

The deadline to apply is June 30.

For online application information for businesses and job seekers, see the Strictly Business blog at buffalonews.com.

email: esapong@buffnews.com