In Sourcing | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

A new job center planned for the Hill District may not have a lot of money, or a lot of time, but organizers are trying to kick-start their efforts to capitalize on a new Penguins arena.

Hill District leaders hope the First Source Job Center will be up and running in the Hill House this spring -- fulfilling a pledge made in a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signed last summer. According to Evan Frazier, executive director of the Hill House, the job center will provide residents with career counseling and help them find jobs created by the Pittsburgh Penguins' new hockey arena and the development around it.

"We are moving forward aggressively to put things in place," says Frazier.

As part of the CBA reached between the Penguins, One Hill, and the city and county, Hill District residents will get dibs on any jobs created by the arena development. But the window lasts only one week after the Penguins notify the job center of open positions. So advocates say it's important that job-center staffers have a list of unemployed residents on file from Day 1.

With only a one-week window, "You've got to move very fast," says Pittsburgh UNITED Executive Director Barney Oursler, who has been involved in launching the center. "The idea is to have everybody processed, so that when jobs are posted, we're ready."

Oursler says the job center is coordinating the efforts of workforce-development agencies already established in the neighborhood. That way, he says, residents can access all the organizations in one place.

According to Oursler, the center's creation is being overseen by an advisory committee made up of 11 members, representing One Hill and community workforce-development groups.

But Oursler says planning efforts must contend with financial constraints. According to the CBA's terms, the city and county will help fund the job center with $150,000 for each of its first two years in operation. "That's not much money," says Oursler, who estimates that the job center will require an additional $150,000 per year for staffing and outreach expenses. The Hill House is seeking additional funding through grants and donations, he says.

Given the funding situation, Oursler says, the job center's staff will most likely be small, with perhaps just two or three workers in charge of recruitment and outreach, as well as job referrals. And while the job center plans to help residents find vocational-training, Oursler says it won't be able to cover training costs.

But no matter how tight the budget, Frazier says the center must invest in marketing and outreach. Some Hill residents aren't even aware the CBA exists, he says, or that the job center is coming.

"That's part of the challenge," Frazier says. "We're planning a very aggressive recruitment and marketing strategy to make sure Hill District residents know about [the job center]."

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