At its core, the Jersey City Employment and Training Program was intended to do one thing – help people find jobs – and for many years it quietly did just that.
Perhaps that’s why, as it prepared to close for Good Friday, people who got entangled in the chaos and upheaval within the scheme years ago are lamenting it as a sad day for Jersey City. It was a program that they believed was good for the community, and that’s how they wanted to remember it.
However, it is difficult to forget the disputes and the resignations that upset the program leadership structure in 2019.
It is unclear whether factors such as funding or participation rates contributed to the decision to close the program. As the agency disbands, Jersey City said it is intentionally focusing on Hudson County’s existing workforce development program, which it is partnering with instead.
“This aligns us with how other surrounding counties are structured that operate successfully on a county-wide basis rather than separate individual programs,” said city spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione. . “The ultimate goal is to ensure that our unemployed residents have access to the services they need to find employment and get there in the most efficient way.”
City officials did not say how many people lost their jobs, or whether they were transferred to other departments. It was also unclear how much money the city would save each year. In 2020, the city has budgeted $918,000 for the jobs program.
The JCETP was designed to serve several main groups – recently incarcerated, veterans, youth, and anyone looking for help finding a job.
It offered free job training in areas such as construction, IT and health care, as well as workshops to help residents navigate their job search. It has also partnered with local businesses, connecting job seekers with open positions.
Ethan Pritting, a 23-year-old Jersey City resident, went to the JCETP office on Thursday after being directed there by members of the city’s police and fire department, where he inquired about the job . He discovered that the office was already closed.
Pritting is enrolled in an aviation maintenance trade school, but proactively sought other career opportunities as a replacement, he said, and he visited the office for counseling in nobody.
“When I do things in person, it feels more personal and authentic to me,” Pritting said. “I think I would have enjoyed going there today and talking to someone.”
The program has helped people like Pritting for more than 30 years, most recently at 398 Martin Luther King Dr. as a non-profit organization affiliated with the city government. When it opened at its MLK Drive location in 2014, not just the then government. Chris Christie was present, but also House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, then House Minority Leader.
This was when the JCETP recently oversaw a prisoner rehabilitation program in Jersey City and was led by former Governor Jim McGreevey – his first political appointment since stepping down as governor 10 years prior. Spirits were high.
Within six years, McGreevey was out and an exodus of longtime board members like Bob Knapp began.
“It was a great experience from 2001 to 2017,” said Knapp, who served on the program’s board. throughout that period before stepping down in 2019. “We were helping people, helping residents with training and referrals for employment etc., but then it all got kind of baffled, unfortunately.”
McGreevey was fired in 2019 after being accused of mismanaging millions of dollars for the New Jersey Reentry Corp., which he founded. McGreevey responded with eight audits of the two organizations that found no wrongdoing and said all transfers between the organizations had been thoroughly vetted.
But JCETP continued to tumble after his departure. Sudhan Thomas was appointed acting director and was accused of embezzling JCETP funds during his short tenure there. Thomas also faces state charges related to campaign contributions.
As Thomas was expelled, council members Knapp, Mark Rowan and Rudolph Daniels resigned. Knapp said he told the Labor Department that the JCETP was in “disruption” and needed intervention.
The COVID-19 pandemic started next year, and now JCETP is closing two years later. As a sign on the door appeared announcing this month’s closure, McGreevey called it ‘sad’ and ‘unfortunate’.
Yet his New Jersey Reentry Corp. continues to operate and helps recently incarcerated people who ask for help. On its website and in an ad on its doorstep, JCETP advises people to look to the Hudson County Career Development Center, located on 48th Street in Union City.
Knapp said he couldn’t attest to what the JCETP looked like after he left, but during his time there he found it to be nothing but dynamic.
“I don’t know at this point where the future will go,” he said, “It’s just very, very sad for me, and I know that for the community.”