Posted May 14, 2009

Community, meet employers

The Offices of Human Resources Outreach and Community Relations are giving Temple’s neighbors the help they need to get, and keep, a job

  • Photo by Ryan Brandenberg Human Resources' Bill Hart accepts a clothing donation from President Ann Weaver Hart.

It used to be that if you couldn’t find your “dream job” right away, you could work for the United States Postal Service or some other governmental agency and make money until your dream job came along.

Standing in a sea of her fellow job seekers at Temple’s Neighbors Job Fair, Renee Gibson of Kensington is living proof that in these tough economic times that no longer applies.

A former casual employee at the Post Office, Gibson was at the job fair in hopes of finding something before her unemployment benefits run out, she said. After connecting with employers, including Allied Barton Security Services, the Philadelphia Police Department and Save-a-Lot Grocery stores, she was confident that her joblessness would soon be coming to an end.

“I plan to get a job as a result of coming here,” Gibson said.

Gibson was among the more than 1,000 job seekers that came to Mitten Hall on May 13 to take advantage of a one-stop market for employers. Businesses ranging from SEPTA to the Internal Revenue Service to the U. S. Census Bureau were represented at the event.

For job seekers, it was a chance to look for new opportunities in light of a down economy.

“I’m exploring my options,” said Sasha Roberts of Nicetown. “I’m coming off of maternity leave and before I left, I was a financial advisor for an insurance company. Those are commission-only jobs and in a recession, the first thing that people give up is their insurance. If they’re not buying insurance, you don’t get paid.”

To employers, the response was better than expected. As he stood by a large cutout picture of himself in an Allied Barton Security Services uniform, Brent O’Bryan, regional director of Human Capital Management for the company, explained to one job seeker what the company is looking for.

“We look for people who can smile,” he said. “We’re also looking for people who are flexible, friendly and reliable because we are a 24-7 operation.”

And how many people was O’Bryan expecting to see?

“We were hoping to see 100 people or so, but we’re going to get more than that,” he said, pointing to a stack of completed applications.

While the job fair was the largest example of Temple’s efforts to help the surrounding community find and maintain employment, it is one of many that the university has undertaken throughout the academic year, said Deborah Hartnett, vice president for Human Resources.

“Temple University has a commitment to the residents in our neighborhoods,” Hartnett said. “In 2005, The Department of Human Resources initiated a Community Outreach and Hiring program. Since then the University has hired about 350 full and part-time employees from the neighborhoods immediately around our campuses.”

“From this we began “CommUnivCity Days”, Hartnett continued, “targeting our neighbors with specialized trainings consisting of how to write a resume, applying on line and effective interviewing skills. We formed a partnership with the Fox School of Business Student Human Resource Management (SHRM) chapter and its Senior’s Capstone class along with our professional staff to conduct mock interviews with community members. This collaboration breaks cultural, social and demographic barriers providing answers’ and interview skill confidence for all who participated. The 3rd Annual Neighbors Job Fair caps the year’s skill acquisition events and was the best attended to date.”

But it didn’t stop there. From April 20 to May 1, the Human Resource Outreach office and the Office of Community Relations held a university-wide clothing drive. About 150 suits, 300 ties and an assortment of shirts, shoes and men’s accessories were collected from bins around campus and given to the National Comprehensive Center for Fathers’ “Work-N-Style” program, the Career Wardrobe and Dress For Success.

While Temple is feeling the same financial pinch that the community surrounding it is feeling, using what it has to help residents find employment shows that a lack of funding won’t turn into a lack of commitment, said Kenneth Lawrence, senior vice president of Government, Community and Public Affairs.

“We want our neighbors to view Temple University as a resource,” he said.