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Seattle University


Employing Locally

December 4, 2012

Seattle University is looking to strengthen its ties to the neighborhood this week by holding a job fair for residents of Yesler Terrace on Friday. The fair is part of the Yesler Terrace Job Pathway Initiative, which intends to create a systematic way to employ Yesler residents at major institutions on First Hill.

The unemployment rate of Yesler Terrace residents between the ages of 19-64 is 44 percent, according to a recent survey-that's nearly five times the rate of unemployment in Seattle, which is currently 8.3 percent. And for those Yesler residents able to earn wages, their average income is quite low ($16,842), suggesting a high level of underemployment to go along with the high unemployment.

At least 50 residents are expected at Friday's fair, which will take place in the Student Center. A number of campus offices will be represented as well as university contractors Bon Appétit and WFF Custodial.

Leading up to the fair, SU worked with job counselors at Yesler Terrace to do an audit of jobs appropriate for residents. "SU hires about 150 staff employees and 250 temporary employees each year and many of these positions would be appropriate opportunities for Yesler Terrace residents," says Human Resources Manager Ruth Donohue, who is coordinating the university's participation in the Yesler initiative.

Donohue says the university will track any hires that come out of the effort. For now, the effort is targeted to the residents of Yesler Terrace, but the more long-term intention, she says, is to create something scalable that can reach a broader population in the neighborhood.

Donohue sees the Yesler Terrace initiative as potentially being just as beneficial for the university as for the neighborhood. She points to studies showing that employees who live close to their work places tend to remain employed longer and perform higher than the general population, which of course results in less turnover and training costs.

The jobs initiative, which complements the university's engagement of the neighborhood's young people through the Seattle University Youth Initiative, is one outgrowth of a strong collaboration between Human Resources and the Center for Community Engagement. It is this same partnership that established SU's service leave benefit in 2009, through which staff members can devote up to three working days each year to community service activities.

"The Job Pathways effort is highly complementary to the goals of the Seattle University Youth Initiative," says Kent Koth, who directs the Youth Initiative and the Center for Service and Community Engagement. "If the parents of neighborhood children are able to find good jobs with livable wages than their children will also be better off.  It is exciting to see Seattle University living out its mission in yet another innovative manner. Kudos to HR for taking this on." 

Of the jobs initiative, Donohue says, "I think it's going to be really exciting to see if we as a major institution on First Hill can impact the community by employing members of the neighborhood."

Other major employers joining SU in the initiative are Harborview Medical Center, Swedish Medical Center and Swedish Cherry Hill Campus, and Virginia Mason Medical Center. Other partners include the Seattle Housing Authority, as well as the City of Seattle's Office of Economic Development, the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County and the Seattle Foundation.

(Photo courtesy of Seattle Housing Authority)