“Hire local” is more than just a tag line for colleges and universities, many of which are creating employment pipelines that lead to the community and back again. By partnering with local vendors for campus needs and by offering vocational learning opportunities for community members, institutions are strengthening town-gown relations organically.
An example is Syracuse University, the largest private employer in central New York state, which contributes $1.1 billion in added income to the region. Beyond the standard campus employment opportunities, university programs can provide unique learning experiences, says Bea Gonzalez, vice president for community engagement at Syracuse. The university partners with CNY Works, a nonprofit, to place local students ages 16 to 20 in campus office jobs for the summer. Part recruiting tool and part staffing initiative, many high school students are introduced to Syracuse and to the possibility of eventually studying there.
At the recent Build Local Procurement Fair on campus, representatives from 100 central New York state businesses mingled and connected with university staff. The event was part of a three-pronged strategy to buy and hire local whenever possible, says Gonzalez. The build-local initiative’s aim is to strengthen partnerships with local municipalities, nonprofit organizations and other community entities.
It involves creating construction opportunities for local businesses; hiring local residents, primarily those from communities where jobs are harder to find; and creating local economic growth through purchasing decisions. N.J. Jones Plumbing LLC and Mattessich Iron LLC, neighboring service providers, are working on the construction of the National Veterans Resource Center at Syracuse, for example. N.J. Jones, a minority business enterprise in Onondaga County, New York, is owned by NaDonte Jones, a master plumber, and Mattessich Iron is owned by Mike Mattessich, a disabled veteran.
“We feel strongly that building partnerships with organizations invested in developing businesses, specifically those owned by women, minorities and veterans, helps to build the community as a whole,” says Gonzalez.