Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras may be from different political parties and communities, but they share some important connections.
The men are longtime friends, having graduated together from Classical High School. Both are also vying to be the next governor of Rhode Island.
Now, for the second time, the two mayors have teamed up for series of free, industry-specific job fairs aimed at putting unemployed Rhode Islanders back to work.
“It wasn’t even about D’s or R’s. The number one priority when we put this together was getting folks in our respective communities, getting Rhode Islanders back to work,” said Fung during a Feb. 19 announcement of the 2014 Mayors’ Job Fairs at the Providence offices of job training site NetWork RI.
“We all have a responsibility to do our part to combat unemployment … regardless of party, regardless of position,” said Taveras. “It’s an opportunity to have two mayors work to really help people get back to work … We’re never too busy to work together to give Rhode Islanders an opportunity to work.”
Taveras said the initiative in its first year drew 1,700 jobseekers and 265 companies over 11 separate events. The “biggest requirement” for participating employers, he said, is that they must “have actual job openings.”
The fairs are hosted in conjunction with Workforce Solutions of Providence and Cranston, and this year the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce has come aboard as a partner.
“Bringing two cities together around this common concern – and being partners to this effort – will ensure that we are bringing resources to bear on our staggering unemployment problem, while helping our state’s businesses find talented and qualified employees,” said Laurie White, president of the Greater Providence Chamber.
“We look forward to continuing our work with Mayor Fung to help all unemployed Rhode Islanders and we stand committed to specifically working for the residents and businesses of Cranston,” said Stephen Boyle, president of the Cranston Chamber of Commerce. “Our goal is to drive the unemployment rate down to where it is either equal or below the national average. Being number one in the country with the highest unemployment rate is unacceptable.”
Assisting with the planning, promotion and operation of this year’s fairs are representatives of the Business Workforce Center at the state’s Department of Labor and Training.
This year’s gatherings kicked off with a health care job fair held Wednesday at the Roger Williams Park Casino. Among the companies who participated were Access Point RI, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island, CharterCare Health Partners’ Roger Williams Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Health Services, Gateway Healthcare, Genesis Healthcare/Coventry Center, Homefront Healthcare, John E. Fogarty Center, the Providence VA Medical Center, Rhode Island Free Clinic and Women & Infants Hospital.
The sessions are free and open to the public, and most will be held at the Roger Williams Park Casino, which is located at 1000 Elmwood Ave. in Providence.
The upcoming sessions are:
March 19 – Rhode Island small business employers
April 22 – Military, veterans and families at the Providence Career & Technical Academy
May 14 – Hospitality
June 18 – Food science roundtable (location to be determined)
Sept. 10 – Health care
Oct. 15 – Retail
Nov. 12 – All industry and manufacturing
Because space is limited, residents are urged to pre-register by visiting www.providenceri.com/wspc or calling 680-8570. Other businesses interested in participating are also welcome.
Both mayors focused on the state’s high unemployment rate, which currently is the worst in the nation at 9.1 percent, as a motivator for continuing their partnership on the job fairs. Fung noted that the men began their cooperation on the initiative before either had entered the race for governor.
“We have an abundance of skilled workers looking for these opportunities … We know there’s no one single answer to unemployment, but we can certainly do our best to put our resources together to try to address that,” said Taveras. “We have more to do, and we’re going to keep our focus on doing that.”