JAY-Z’s Roc Nation and Reform Alliance Create New Standard For Job Fairs – People Actually Got Hired.
Earlier this month, JAY-Z’s entertainment company, Roc Nation, teamed up with criminal justice nonprofit, the Reform Alliance, to host a job fair in New York city and some people actually walked out with jobs.
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Over five thousand job seekers, sixty-two employers, and dozens of supporting vendors convened at Madison Square Garden to help revitalize the workforce and address labor shortages experienced by many employers in the state.
“To have this opportunity to talk to all the different high-level executives, to try to be able to get my foot in the door for the near future, is something I am very excited about,” said James Bailey, one of the thousands of New Yorkers seeking employment. “Everyone right now is looking to find something where they can put themselves in a better position. To me, this job fair is all about long-term growth. I want to be able to find somewhere where I can be a valuable asset to the team in the long-term.”
This was no typical job fair. The diverse array of resources set this job fair apart and sets the bar high for future events. The event was for all unemployed people in the state, including veterans, single mothers, formerly incarcerated individuals and those just hit hard by the pandemic who lost their jobs.
“We understand people are coming from all walks of life,” Dania Diaz, Managing Director of Team Roc said. “Some people are really ready to speak with employers, feel really confident and have had some early training; and some people haven’t. They all have lots of talent and lots of desire. We wanted to make sure we created a space for those people as well, who maybe need some extra help.”
At the job fair that extra help came in the form of free barber and grooming services, make-up services, professional attire including suits and blouses, professional headshots and business cards, and a designated area filled with dozens of volunteers assisting with resumé review and practicing interview skills. The event also offered free legal support for returning citizens interested in clearing their record or getting expungement services.
“I have never been to an event like this,” said Rebecca St. Louis, one of the representatives from Children of Promise, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit organization that services children of incarcerated parents and their families who have been through trauma. “A lot of people in need are getting opportunities down to clothing, resumé help. It’s a blessing because we’ve all been through tough times and Covid hurt a lot of us. To have dedicated and good people giving resources to the people in need is very beautiful and necessary during this time.”
Rebecca’s colleague, Jade Clancy, described why Children of Promise was present at this event. “We’re looking for people who want to give back to their community. That’s why we’re here, to make sure we’re supporting our communities. We’re here to make sure families who have been impacted by incarceration know we are here, and we are making sure to build that connection and bridge.”
Children of Promise impacts the community in several ways, including offering free after school mentoring services, a wellness center, and a Saturday resource center to help children improve academically.
In addition to the visible resources and employers like Children of Promise, a community of supporters were present at this event through their donations. Alpha cosmetics, Michael Strahan’s company SMAC Entertainment, and Rihanna’s beauty and skin care line, Fenty, were some of the several additional donors who made this event possible.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has really struck everyone in so many different ways,” explained Diaz. “We’ve seen that largely in communities who have been underserved, and most of them are Black and Brown communities, that it has struck the hardest.”
Diaz continued, “We wanted to do our part to help communities who have been the most adversely impacted by the pandemic, as well as the companies who have suffered in attracting talent.”
Rhonda Gueruela, Manager at the Puma Flagship store on Fifth Avenue, shared why it was so important for Puma to be at the event.
“On the retail side of things, turnover and retention is really difficult right now. We’re all experiencing this labor shortage. This is really helpful for them and for us.”
Gueruela described the impact this event had on recruiting diverse talent. “You see so many different people from all over New York, from all different backgrounds. Those types of people might not necessarily apply to our website and we here, we get to actually converse with this diverse group of people.”
Employers like Puma were not just interviewing candidates – they were on a mission to hire people.
“People walked away with actual jobs today,” said Robert Rooks, CEO of the Reform Alliance. “One gentleman who was just released from jail two weeks ago came, interviewed with UPS, and walked out of here with a job. That’s what all of this is about.”
Rooks went on to describe how this resource fair aimed to address the mountains of challenges and barriers to employment that incarcerated individuals face in seeking employment. “People that have felonies on their record are oftentimes in the margins of employment structure.”
Ahib Paul, a 42-year-old man from Queens, knows first-hand the barriers to employment formerly incarcerated individuals face.
“When you’re coming out of prison there are barriers that stop you from getting certain jobs, housing,” said Paul.
Rooks said the Reform Alliance and Roc Nation are here to remove those barriers. “We’re here to bring people in. We need everyone to get New York back to where it can be and should be. And we definitely need people who have felonies on their record and just want to work to provide for their families.”
The Reform Alliance says that helping formerly incarcerated individuals find jobs and get their lives back on track helps prevent recidivism or repeat offending.
For everyone and anyone seeking employment right now, the common advice given was to never give up.
“It’s never too late. No matter what you’ve come across or circumstances you’ve dealt with. Everyone is able to have a second chance, to grow, to develop, to create a new narrative in your life,” said Clancy.
“Anything is possible,” St. Louis added. “We’re all worthy of being successful and having opportunity.”
Another big message this job fair sent is nobody is alone. “There are organizations all throughout New York City and New York State working hard to get people back to work. We’re a convener of those organizations,” said Rooks. “A good economy is an inclusive economy.”
If you were unable to attend the job fair, there are still plenty of resources and places available to help you. You can contact your local fortune society, the Reform Alliance, the Osborne Association, Children of Promise, and the Center for Employment Opportunities.