By Daniel Massey
“My name is Ian Johnson. I worked for U.S. Airways. I’m looking for a job.”
With that statement, Johnson, of Springfield Gardens, helped kick off an orientation program at the Queens Worker Career Center in Forest Hills. He was one of about 20 people who attended the session, part of a citywide program aimed at providing career services to the tens of thousands of workers displaced by the Sept. 11 Twin Towers attacks.
Queens residents who worked in the airline, financial, hotel and restaurant sectors attended the workshop, which is scheduled as demand dictates.
Johnson had worked at JFK Airport for 19 years. The last two years, he had been employed as a fleet service agent loading bags for U.S. Airways.
After being furloughed Oct. 11, he visited the state Department of Labor and spent time at a driving school, hoping to get a commercial trucker’s license. His next stop on the job search trail was the Queens Worker Career Center.
Lynn Bond, a career counselor, told Johnson and the other displaced workers they could choose between the center’s core and the intensive career assistance programs. The core program helps displaced workers find new jobs by letting them use, for free, the center’s computers, copiers, fax machines, phones, career workshops and referral services.
The intensive services, which many of the people in last Thursday’s workshop chose, offers a more comprehensive approach, where job seekers are paired with career advisers who help them find jobs or training programs.
“In this time of crisis we are poised to help workers recover and get back on their feet,” said Joe McDermott, executive director of the Consortium for Worker Education, a group of 46 New York City unions and locals that runs career centers across the city, including the one in Forest Hills.
The consortium, which normally handles 75,000 cases of people seeking retraining and employment services each year, expects to handle more because people like Johnson are facing new challenges after Sept. 11. Career counselors have already talked with more than 3,200 people and have located 5,000 job openings specifically for those affected by the disaster.
A report by the Manhattan-based Fiscal Policy Institute estimated the New York City economy would lose 105,200 jobs by the end of the year as a direct result of the attack on the World Trade Center. Of these, 25,500 will be jobs that were moved out of the city following the attack and 79,700 will be from layoffs, the institute said.
The report said many of the layoffs have been concentrated in low-wage industries. It said 60 percent of the workers likely to be laid off have an average annual salary of $22,800, less than half of the citywide average salary of about $58,000.
The consortium was set up to aid people like Jimmy Colon of Ridgewood, who lost his job in the purchasing department at the Paramount Hotel in Manhattan because of the steep drop in tourism since Sept. 11.
“In the week after the attacks, the hotel went from 91 percent occupancy to 31 percent occupancy,” he said. “Fifty percent of the staff got laid off.”
Colon, who worked at the Paramount for 11 years, said he hopes to make the most out of his unemployment. “I took this as the perfect opportunity to go out and retrain myself,” he said. “I want to find something in technology or accounting. I’m good with numbers.”
Charles Hubbard of Jamaica was furloughed from his job loading food onto airplanes for U.S. Airways. He attended the orientation hoping to “find a new career,” probably in the construction field. “I’m a blue-collar-type of guy,” he said.
Since he was furloughed, Hubbard has been surviving on unemployment checks. “Maybe this will point me in a different direction, give me a skill that’s marketable,” Hubbard said. “Maybe I can make something better out of myself.”
Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.