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Innovations in the Field: Lower East Side Employment Network

Innovations in the Field is a series examining programs supported by JobsFirstNYC that serve both employers seeking job-ready workers and young adults in New York City looking to access employment and training opportunities. These programs are innovative in two respects: how workforce providers engage as partners with employers, and how providers collaborate rather than compete with one another. They illustrate best practices in young adult workforce development and address service gaps, on both the demand side and the supply side, that otherwise might deter many young adults from entering career-track work.

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The Lower East Side Employment Network (LESEN) is a collaboration of social service provider organizations in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Chinatown, working with JobsFirstNYC and Community Board 3 to serve local jobseekers and employers. Launched in 2007 in anticipation of new development projects then gestating in the neighborhood, LESEN has emerged as a promising model for multi-partner collaboration in a field long characterized by competition between providers.

Since 2012, when the Network hired a full-time coordinator with support from JobsFirstNYC, LESEN has placed nearly 200 jobseekers at an average starting wage of $10.77 an hour. About half of this number are young adults age 25 and under. Going forward, LESEN has signed memoranda of understanding with three major developments set to break ground to serve as a preferred hiring source for thousands of additional jobs to be created over the next ten years.

This report details the motivations that inspired the LESEN partners to shift from competition to partnership, as well as the challenges they had to navigate through the early years of implementation. It includes lessons learned and next steps for this highly promising collaboration.

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