Newton Hires, a program that aims to attract employees for Newton employers using cash bonus incentives, participated in a virtual career fair on Nov. 2 in an effort to involve more people in the program.
“We really hope that people will take a look at the program and try to participate,” Devra Bailin, Newton Economic Development director, said. “Our goal is to get as many people employed in Newton as we can, and we feel that this incentive is actually really helpful to people, especially over the holiday season.”
The program is a collaborative effort among the city, MassHire Metro South/West, and the Charles River Regional Chamber, where Bailin serves on the board of directors. A portion of the funding Newton received from the American Recovery Plan will fund the program, according to Bailin.
Newton Hires connects employees with prospective employers in an effort to make the job search easy and efficient. The program uses a monetary bonus to incentivize people to find and remain in jobs, Bailin said.
While Newton Hires was first available on Aug. 9, anyone who met the requirements by Aug. 1 can retroactively register, Bailin said.
“What’s interesting about the program is that an employee can start with an employer and then find out about the program and they can both then retroactively apply,” Bailin said. “We’ve made it as simple as possible for people to grab hold of the incentive bonus.”
Bailin had a booth at the fair to answer questions and was available to help resolve any issues, and she said was able to witness how employees responded to the program.
“As I participated in the job fair, I can say that I thought it was a very successful event and hope that many of those people who were participating get jobs,” Bailin said. “It was a platform that was very easy to use … and I think it created a very open environment for people to feel free to ask their questions.”
According to Bailin, 88 individuals pre-registered for the fair and 41 attendees and 30 employers participated. The program has had positive feedback so far, though employers seem to be more eager than potential employees, Bailin said.
Over 65 employers have identified vacancies through the program. Though there have been a lot of inquiries and interest, only 27 unemployed individuals are fully registered on the MassHire website and 10 of those job applicants have earned their first bonus by working at least four weeks, according to Bailin.
Qualifications to apply for the program, according to the MassHire website and Bailin, include being 18 years of age, currently underemployed or unemployed, registering with MassHire Metro South/West, and securing employment of 20 hours per week and providing documentation of being employed. Qualifications for employers include being based in Newton and registering their business and job openings with MassHire. Newton Hires is also limited to the first 200 people who are hired in Newton and stay employed.
Some of the participating employers include Solomon Schechter School, the Suzuki School, and Boston Showcase, according to Bailin.
Over 3,400 vacancies were reported in the city between April 15 and July 15, according to the city’s website. Bailin said this reflects the labor shortages and difficulty to retain workers in Newton, but also at the state and national level.
Employers are not only having issues finding employees, but also retaining workers for extended periods of time, Bailin said. To encourage long-term employment, the program offers the bonus only after employees remain with their employer for four weeks and offers another bonus if they stay through Dec. 20, according to Bailin.
“Under the program if you work for four weeks you get $500,” Bailin said. “If you’re still working as of December 20, you would get another $500 after January of 2022—so it’s a $1,000 bonus.”
Boston Showcase exemplifies the issue of employee retention, as Bailin said the company was able to find employees but was having trouble incentivizing them to stay.
“That was one of the reasons for doing this sort of incentive bonus,” Bailin said. “A lot of people were showing up for a day or two of work and then they’d go on to something else and that obviously is a problem for employers … so we wanted to encourage people to be employed here in Newton, but also to stay employed here and allow companies some stability in their work staff.”
While this program is new to Newton, it has been implemented in a similar capacity in other Massachusetts communities and is based loosely off of Salem’s Hospitality Employee Incentive Program, Bailin said. This program also offers monetary benefits, in the form of Visa gift cards, to employees who maintain a certain number of hours of work on a weekly basis, according to the Salem website. Bailin said she, along with other city officials, determined Newton could benefit from a similar program.
Aside from the job fair, Bailin said she has also publicized Newton Hires in Mayor Ruthanne Fuller’s community update emails, on social media, and in the Charles River Regional Chamber’s newsletter.
“The difficulty is it is not just people in Newton who are unemployed that qualify, but anybody who takes the job in Newton,” Bailin said. “So trying to get the word out in a broader market is much more difficult.”
While the program is expected to end after the last bonuses are given out in January 2022, Bailin said she would love to continue the program in the future.
“At some point, those people will need to get back to work and my hope is that we can sort of incentivize them to come our way, but right now the plan is the program will end at the end of this year with final payments being made early next year,” Bailin said.
Featured Image by Keara Hanlon / Heights Senior Staff