East Harlem Workforce Development Initiative to Place 180 Individuals in Jobs by Spring 2017

Date:    Thursday, December 3, 2015

The 2013 American Community Survey revealed that 11.5 percent of East Harlem residents were unemployed. The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Workforce Development Initiative awarded a $482,874 grant to STRIVE, a Harlem-based workforce development provider, to increase local hiring in the community. In the Fall of 2014, STRIVE launched the East Harlem Talent Network, a central hub that connects employers in need of skilled and qualified labor with unemployed and under-employed residents. The Network has made 72 job placements as of November 2015, and is on track to place 180 jobseekers by spring 2017. In order to ensure the Talent Network’s future success, STRIVE developed a plan to amplify its fundraising capacity and will soon develop a database to better monitor requests from employers and resume submissions from residents seeking employment.

The East Harlem Talent Network applies a uniquely comprehensive approach to workforce development by partnering with community-based organizations, local employers, and residents. Thus far, the Network has collaborated with 102 community-based organizations and 30 local businesses. Employers willingly engage in the partnership because of the savings of time, money, and resources resulting from using the Network’s free pre-screening and background check services. The added benefit is that hiring locally reduces employee absences caused by inclement weather and public transit delays. The East Harlem Talent Network is unique in its commitment to servicing residents of the Empowerment Zone and other areas of Upper Manhattan by requiring that 50% of placed participants reside in East Harlem, 30% in Upper Manhattan, and 20% in other neighborhoods of New York City.

ChaiWali, a new Indian-inspired restaurant located on 124th Street and Lenox Avenue, hired 21 individuals through the East Harlem Talent Network. A famed bakery on 116th and St. Nicholas Avenue, Make My Cake, also partnered with the Network to hire three of its staff members.

Kenneth J. Knuckles, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, notes: “UMEZ is proud to support an innovative effort that addresses the need for employment by fostering partnerships with community organizations, employers, and local residents. Its success lies in its collaborative process, local focus, and response to current market needs. We celebrate this milestone in the East Harlem Talent Network’s trajectory and look forward to future success.”


STRIVE is an experienced provider of workforce development services located in East Harlem. Its mission is to help people acquire the life-changing skills and attitudes needed to overcome challenging circumstances, find sustained employment, and become valuable contributors to their families, their employers, and their communities. The organization is committed to serving the hardest-to-employ, most at-risk individuals. These include the long-term unemployed, the formerly incarcerated, disconnected youth, recovering addicts, public assistance recipients, veterans, the homeless, and the working poor. The STRIVE employment model is offered by 20 community-based organizations in the U.S. and overseas. Since 1984, its groundbreaking curriculum has helped 60,000 individuals enter the workforce worldwide.


Since its founding in 1996, the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone (UMEZ) has been a primary catalyst in the revitalization of Upper Manhattan. UMEZ’s investments, upwards of $225 million to date, have provided funding to numerous organizations, businesses and institutions that drive the local economy, create jobs, and add to the vibrancy of New York City. Significantly, these funds have also been leveraged to generate over $1 billion in private capital investments into Upper Manhattan. UMEZ continues to be a leader in re-establishing the area as one of New York’s most dynamic cultural districts through the creation of the Cultural Industry Investment Fund, established in 2004.