The Long Island City Partnership hosted a life sciences career open house at Riis Settlement at the Queensbridge Houses on Thursday, April 28, showcasing the neighborhood’s growing industry cluster for more than 100 job seekers, students and prospective career changers.
Long Island City has become a hub for the burgeoning life sciences industry and the LIC Partnership is making efforts to ensure that development is equitable, especially for young residents of western Queens. Many of the participants were unaware of the opportunities available in the industry, providing attractive careers ranging from healthcare, biotech, pharmaceuticals, lab testing, research and development, environmental management, and manufacturing, including roles that don’t require a degree.
“We have an amazing ecosystem here in Long Island City that is composed of nonprofit organizations, for-profit businesses and some really, really amazing strong government partners, and all of those three are represented here today,” Riis Settlement Executive Chris Hanway said.
Students and job seekers circulated between four round tables with different companies to hear about their work and career opportunities.
During her opening remarks, Long Island City Partnership President Elizabeth Lusskin made no mention of her impending exit from the neighborhood development organization at the end of the month. She will be stepping down after more than eight years to take an executive position at Empire State Development. Lusskin instead explained the importance of the third Life Science Open House that she has organized.
“We created these because we felt there was a need to connect a lot of great career-oriented businesses in this community to the great career-oriented people in this community and vice versa,” Lusskin said. “Many of our local life sciences companies, hospitals, environmental companies and others are actively hiring lab technicians, research assistants, data and IT specialists, but also sales representatives and administrative assistants. [Roles] that would be in any company are also in the life sciences industries where you can start and learn and grow.”
Participating businesses included Mount Sinai Queens, Triumvirate, BioTech Without Borders and The Floating Hospital. Workforce organizations included LaGuardia Community College, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Hour Children, Queens Public Library, Northwell Health and Urban Upbound.
“A career gives you all the opportunity to not just get that first job but to invest in yourself, to hone your skills and to reach your full potential,” Urban Upbound Senior Director of Programs Alex Malescio said.
Western Queens resident Estefanie Llguichuzca, 32, found out about the open house through Urban Upbound.
“I have a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs, and have had a difficult time finding a position with my specific interests,” Llguichuzca said. “But I find the life sciences sector very appealing and I realize that my skill sets can be very useful in the field.”
The event was unique in that it was not a career fair in the traditional sense, but rather an opportunity for those interested to explore round tables, meet workforce development professionals and get a sense of how they, too, can be a part of the neighborhood’s transformation, according to the partnership. Jose Ortiz Jr. has more than 20 years of experience in workforce development and currently serves as senior adviser to Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer.
“You have to understand that sometimes the moment that you’re involved in and the job that you’re taking on in that moment of time that doesn’t necessarily seem the most exciting, maybe it’s not the area that you want to spend the rest of your career in, but seize the opportunity,” Ortiz said. “[You] recognize that each moment compounds itself into another moment and eventually becomes hopefully the career that you’re looking for.”
Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane