‘Jobmobile’ works to employ Newark residents

Retrofitted police van equipped with job tools will travel throughout city.

Newark Deputy Mayor for Employment Rahman Muhammed introduced the city’s new ‘Jobmobile,’ a former police van that made its official debut Wednesday at the Bradley Court housing project, where eager Newark residents lined up to check it out.

“We took a vehicle that used to arrest people and converted it into a vehicle that employs people,” he said.

“I just hope I find something, you know, to keep myself out of trouble,” said Shaquille Crawford, who was filling out a job application.

It’s much easier to do in a van outfitted with special features from laptops and broadband access to professional experts, all designed to drive up employment for city residents.

“I’ve been looking for a job for about three months. It’s kind of hard, because they require experience and things of that nature,” said jobseeker Medina Manuel.

“Beginning to the end, we can do it from here, all on this van,” said Arneida Greene, senior community relations aide with the Newark Workforce Development Board. “We log them onto the system, have them apply. If they don’t have their resume, I have them send it to me,” Greene continued.

The economy is rebounding, and Newark’s jobless rate dropped to 6.3 percent in April. But that’s still a couple points higher than New Jersey’s, which stands at 4.3 percent. And, a recent study by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice showed only 17.8 percent of the jobs in Newark are held by people who actually live there.

“Get yourself together, stand up straight, put your shoulders straight, your head up, go in here and take a shot at it, ‘cause nothing beats a failure but a try and get an opportunity to get a job here today,” said Newark mayor Ras Baraka.

“I think this is new for New Jersey,” said Aaron Fichtner, acting Commissioner of the state’s Department of Workforce and Development. “I’ve seen it in other states, but this really is a great day to be able to get services right to where people live.”

The Jobmobile, more formally known as NewarkWOW, or Workplace on Wheels, fits Baraka’s plan to create 2,000 more entry-level jobs in the city by the year 2020. The van will offer remote access to recruitment sessions, resume and referral services and online applications. 1Huddle donated an $80,000 gaming platform to help train residents train to pass a basic city skills test.

“Who wouldn’t rather play a game than read a manual? That’s the concept. If we can make training fun and interactive, they’re more likely to do it,” said Sam Caucci, CEO of technology-based employee training company 1Huddle.

Meanwhile, the meal delivery company HelloFresh, which was on-site Wednesday, has already committed to hiring Newarkers. And, as the mayor explained, this Jobmobile’s not headed downtown.

“We’re going to use this vehicle to go into the toughest parts of the city. I want y’all to be clear: this vehicle is not gonna be on Broad and Market,” Muhammad said.

Ultimately, the vehicle will be rated not on miles per gallon, or what’s under the hood, but rather on jobs per stop once it drives out into the neighborhood.

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