Standing in line at the Tidwell Community Center, Elias Leal gripped a clipboard and carefully printed his name and contact information.
A painter by trade, Leal attended the Turnaround Houston Disaster Recovery hiring event on Nov. 2. This was no ordinary job application and no ordinary job fair. Leal said it was a much-needed blessing that gave him hope after two months of searching for work.
“I hope I get the call because I hear good things about working for the city,” he said while filling out the application. “I really need a job; I haven’t worked since the hurricane. The storm flooded my truck. I lost my tools, my blaster, and all the equipment I need to do my job. I also got four feet of water in my house.”
A City of Houston and Workforce Solutions-Gulf Coast partnership and a Texas Workforce Commission grant enabled the city to create 400 temporary city jobs for Houstonians left unemployed by Hurricane Harvey. The jobs, which last up to a year, will support the city’s efforts to repair storm-damaged city buildings, parks and other facilities.
Workforce Solutions-Gulf Coast staff pre-screened candidates for eligibility and city employees conducted interviews at the job fair. On Nov. 2, the city extended 194 on-the-spot conditional job offers out of 275 job fair applicants. Positions ranging from semi-skilled laborer to project manager were available from departments including Houston Public Works, Solid Waste Management, General Services, Fleet Management, Parks and Recreation and the Department of Neighborhoods.
“Hurricane Harvey was an unprecedented catastrophic event that disrupted all of our lives in some way,” said Jane Cheeks, Human Resources director. “This is a phenomenal opportunity that will provide much-needed employment to help Harvey survivors and others move forward. It will also provide critical staffing to help several city departments support the recovery efforts of our residents.
“Out of tremendous hardship, sometimes great things can happen,” Cheeks said. “These people were displaced, came on hard times, but now they have an opportunity to turn that around.
I have been told that even the biggest storms can bring the biggest blessings. Hopefully, this has the potential to be one of the biggest blessings the city could hope to gain.”
The jobs were funded through a grant from the Texas Workforce Commission, which provided an initial allocation of $10.5 million to provide temporary jobs for clean-up and repair of public facilities or for humanitarian assistance; limited financial assistance for dislocated workers to help them look for work and go back to work; and training for individuals to return to work.
Human Resources and the Office of Business Opportunity teamed up to organize the hiring event in fewer than 10 days. A similar job fair model has been used at Turnaround Houston events, Mayor Sylvester Turner’s initiative to remove employment barriers by connecting Houstonians with social services, job training, health and employment resources. Read more about Turnaround Houston.
“When I learned that Workforce Solutions had funding from the Texas Workforce Commission to support disaster recovery, I approached Director Cheeks,” said OBO Director Carlecia Wright. “This is just great for the city and for the people of this community. We wanted to host the job fair in a community that was impacted by the storm, so we are at the Tidwell Community Center to create workforce development opportunities, meet the city’s objectives about recovery, expand our workforce, and give second chances, because the city is a second-chance employer.”
About 200 positions are still available, so HR and OBO staff are identifying dates and locations for more job fair events. Check the Turnaround Houston website for updates.
Turnaround Houston Disaster Recovery jobs include:
- Administrative Assistant
- Administrative Assistant – Bilingual (Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese or Arabic)
- Code Enforcement Officers
- Community Canvasser
- Community Canvasser – Bilingual (Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese or Arabic)
- Community Service Inspector
- Customer Service Representative
- Equipment Operator
- Equipment Worker
- Field Supervisor
- Graduate Engineer
- Irrigator Installer
- Plan Analyst
- Semi-Skilled Laborer
- Utility Worker