The City Recruits in Chinatown

NYC DCAS outreach specialist Achmat Akkad talking with job seekers at a job fair in chinatown recently. (Photo via World Journal)

NYC DCAS outreach specialist Achmat Akkad talking with job seekers at a job fair in Chinatown recently. (Photo via World Journal)

[World Journal recently reported on a job fair held in Chinatown. The first story discusses outreach by the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), while the second discusses recruiting by a translation firm, CyraCom.]

The 2016 Job Fair held by the CMP (formerly Chinatown Manpower Project, a nonprofit job training organization in Chinatown) on Sept. 22 at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association attracted recruiters from more than 20 government agencies and corporations. Many of them had job openings that specifically targeted Chinese job applicants. Among the recruiters was the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), which is in charge of hiring for the city. The agency, presenting for the first time at a Chinatown job fair, immediately became popular among job seekers for information it provided about of job openings with the city as well as the civil service exam required. “The city offers more jobs opportunities to Asian immigrants than you can imagine,” said Achmat Akkad, an outreach specialist with the DCAS.

Akkad said the diversity of the city prompts the city government to recruit more immigrants with diverse backgrounds and language abilities to better serve ethnic communities. And the rapidly growing Asian community makes Asians one of the top priorities for recruitment.

Akkad, who has been working for the city for 29 years, said when he was discharged from the military and looking for a job, it was very hard to become a civil servant because job opportunities and exam information were very limited for an African American like him. And that was a time when the city didn’t pay much attention to the needs of disadvantaged communities. “Things have changed a lot in the past 30 years. Now New York is a diverse city and the mayor cares a lot about minorities. So the city is looking to hire more minority civil servants to serve their own communities,” Akkad said.

Akkad said this was the first time DCAS came to Chinatown to recruit and offer a workshop on the civil service exam, and this was one of the signs that showed the city’s interest in the Chinese community. “We do have the need to hire more Chinese civil servants, especially for jobs that rely on communication skills such as 311 and 911 operators, police officers, firefighters and community outreach specialists, because there are more and more Chinese immigrants in this city,” said Akkad.

Akkad said he had also been working with community organizations at Flushing in the past few months. And similar outreach activities and workshops in the Chinese community will be even more frequent in the future.

Chinese job seekers who attended the job fair showed great interest in the civil service jobs. Close to a hundred people filed applications at the scene, and many more attended the workshop on the civil service exam. Many of them said they just realized that they’d missed many opportunities because of inadequate information. “I only learned today that you don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to work for the city, some jobs which must be filled quickly can be offered before the applicants take the civil service exam, and there are opportunities even for those with a criminal record,” said Huihua Lin, a job seeker, after she attended the workshop.

Lin said she had been looking for a stable job and the city’s recruiting in Chinatown made her feel her chance to get a city job was now greater.

Many private companies were also looking for people who speak Chinese, especially those who speak certain Chinese dialects. Among them was CyraCom, a phone interpretation company that serves many big corporations including hospitals and banks. Xiaoting Yep, a recruiter from CyraCom, said other than Cantonese and Mandarin, the company is also looking for translators who speak Fujian, Minnan, Hakka and Wenzhou dialects. He encouraged Chinese immigrants, especially the second generation, to maintain their unique languages so they can be more competitive in the job market.

Yep said CyraCom was established in Arizona in 1995 and provides phone interpretation mainly to big hospitals and banks. “When the hospital gets a patient who doesn’t speak English, they will call our interpreter to have a three-way phone communication. Our clients are all over the country and their needs are diverse,” said Yep.

Yep said the company’s mission is to help new immigrants to communicate with professionals in the health and finance fields. At first, the interpreters at the company were all Spanish speakers. Now it has changed a lot. “With the growth of Chinese immigrants, we started to recruit Cantonese and Mandarin speakers. And in recent years, we also started to recruit Chinese dialect speakers,” said Yep.

Last August, the company opened a branch in Flushing. And now it has more than 110 Chinese interpreters who provide phone interpretation hundreds of times per day. “We don’t weigh too much on the English language ability of our job applicants because we’ll train you after you are hired,” said Yep.

Shencheng Li, who moved to New York from Fuzhou, China, with his parents four years ago, was surprised that his native dialect is considered marketable here. “When I had just arrived, I felt embarrassed because my English was not very good. So I tried not to speak Fujianese at all and immersed myself completely in English,” said Li. “It is such a surprise that the native dialect that I used to consider a minus now is a plus on the job market. When I have children in the future I’ll definitely teach them my Chinese dialect.”

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