Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today outlined how the City is helping small businesses adapt to today’s market conditions, avoid layoffs, and increase worker skills and wages through New York City’s Business Solutions training funds program. Mayor Bloomberg visited a retraining session for employees of Rucci Oil Company in Port Richmond, Staten Island. To adjust to changing market conditions and to avoid job cuts, Rucci Oil is using NYC Business Solutions training funds to retrain its workforce to transition from services relating to home heating oil and diesel fuel to those related to natural gas and air conditioning. In the past year NYC Business Solutions training funds have helped 30 businesses in all five boroughs train or retrain nearly 2,000 employees. Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of initiatives to create jobs through workforce training, small business support, infrastructure investments and economic diversification. The announcement took place at Rucci Oil on Richmond Terrace on Staten Island. The Mayor was joined by Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert C. Lieber, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs, Staten Island Borough President James P. Molinaro, Council Member Ken Mitchell, Department of Small Business Services (SBS) Commissioner Robert W. Walsh, Rucci Oil Company Co-owners Roy and Andrew Rucci and the employees of Rucci Oil receiving skills training.
“In order to remain profitable in this economic environment many New York City companies are reevaluating their business operations, and our NYC Business Solutions Training Program is helping them retrain their workers to prepare them for new roles and responsibilities,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Rucci Oil, an 80-year-old family-operated business in Staten Island, was on the brink of having to downsize. By retraining its workforce and shifting operations, Roy and Andrew Rucci will keep the business their grandfather founded intact and reposition it for future growth. It’s a terrific example of the impact our NYC Business Solutions programs are having across the City and is the latest testament to the unparalleled resiliency of New Yorkers.”
Last Fall, Rucci Oil Company, an 80-year old, family-owned company, applied for NYC Business Solutions training funds to retrain a portion of its workforce. The business determined that to remain viable it had to change its business model. In October 2008, SBS awarded Rucci Oil Company $21,840 in NYC Business Solutions training funds – combined with an employer contribution of $12,480 – to conduct the on-the-job training. As a result, ten Class “C” technicians are being trained to become Class “A” technicians and will help the company make the transition. Class “C” technicians are equipped to handle basic repairs and standard service calls. Class “A” technicians can handle both residential and commercial work, troubleshoot hearing and air conditioning and handle refrigerants.
The on-site training classes will last for one year. The first set of courses will be a series of six, three-hour classes in each of the following areas: Basic Principles of Heating and Air Conditioning, Diagnostic and Repair, Basic Electricity, Preventive Maintenance, Refrigerants and Servicing and Conservation. The last one-hour class will cover customer service techniques. Rucci Oil was introduced to the training fund program through another SBS program, NYC Industrial Business Solutions, which provides free, one-on-one assistance to help industrial businesses access resources that make it easier to do business and thrive in New York City.
“New York City’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we are working to help them through these difficult economic times,” said Deputy Mayor Lieber. “Our NYC Business Solutions training funds are helping businesses retrain their employees, in some cases allowing them to keep from cutting jobs.”
“The Center for Economic Opportunity is focused on ways we can help our city’s working poor move up the economic ladder and out of poverty for good,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “Coupling our anti-poverty strategy with the good work of Small Business Services allows the City to help both employers and employees, which is critical during these tough economic times.”
“As the business climate gets tougher and more competitive, employers will need their workers to develop new skills,” said Commissioner Walsh. “NYC Business Solutions Training Funds enable businesses to invest in their workers, helping them acquire valuable skills that allow businesses to grow in New York City while creating new jobs and paying workers higher wages.
“These training funds have enabled our company to expand, rather than downsize,” said Rucci Oil Company co-owner Roy Rucci. “During the next year, we would have had to either lay off or cut the hours of our employees. With the City’s assistance, we can continue to serve the customers that have come to rely on us, and we will continue our family tradition.”
In 2005, the City launched the program that would later evolve into the NYC Business Solutions Training Program. In its first two years, the 24 businesses received just over $2 million to train 1,450 people, with companies contributing more than $3 million. In the last year alone, 30 businesses received $3 million to train 1,929 employees. Those companies contributed $2.4 million. NYC Business Solutions Training Program covers up to 70 percent of training costs. Applicants are judged based upon their ability to create entry-level jobs, provide current workers with career advancement opportunities, and increase wages. Reimbursement for training and wage gains are contingent upon trainees’ successful completion of the program. Last October, as part of the City’s 18-point plan to help New Yorker’s weather the economic downturn, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the City would expand the program with $500,000 in State funds. These additional funds will be used to expand the number of businesses receiving awards in coming rounds.
In 2007, the Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) partnered with SBS to enhance the Business Solutions Training Funds to better help businesses train, retain and promote their employees. Until the program was expanded with CEO dollars, businesses were limited in the type of training they could provide their employees. Operating under the Federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) guidelines, which was historically the sole source of funding for the program, SBS could only offer grants to businesses for strict occupational training. With CEO funding, SBS has been able to implement major and innovative reforms. Due to a lack of skills, including limited English proficiency and an inability to access training, many working poor New Yorkers cannot secure permanent well-paid jobs with growth potential. The infusion of CEO dollars gives businesses the chance to apply for grants to provide a range of training to their employees, including contextualized literacy, English as a Second Language (ESL), job readiness and occupational training.
SBS is currently accepting and reviewing applications for the sixth round of NYC Business Solutions training funds. The awards, totaling $1.5 million, will be announced on April 14th. There will be two additional application rounds in the second half of 2009 and $4.5 million will be available to employers over the next year. New York City businesses can apply at www.nyc.gov or by calling 311.
The Center for Economic Opportunity was established by Mayor Bloomberg in 2006 to implement innovative ways to reduce poverty in New York City. Led by Executive Director Veronica White, the CEO works with City agencies to design and implement evidence-based initiatives aimed at poverty reduction. The CEO manages an Innovation Fund through which it provides City agencies annual funding to implement such initiatives and will oversee a rigorous evaluation of each to determine which are successful in demonstrating results towards reducing poverty and increasing self-sufficiency among New Yorkers.