(Florida International University) – A community resource and job fair aimed at helping University of Miami's new bio-technology facility in Overtown become part of the local community drew relatively few participants but its sponsors remain upbeat about the institution.
The event on Saturday was sponsored by UM, Miami-Dade College and South Florida Workforce – the state's employment agency. It offered free health screenings and employment and job training opportunities.
The employment fair, held in a Miami-Dade building, did not appear to attract large numbers of job-seekers, though the outdoor health screening location was busier.
Juan-Carlos del Valle, UM’s assistant-president for government and community relations, was pleased, saying human resources representatives and work-force training programs were satisfied. UM officials did not say how many job-seekers appeared.
"They'll tell you that there’s a lot of qualified candidates that came through these doors," del Valle said. "This is something we plan to do once a year. This is our first one and we hope to continue to spread the word."
The first building in
UM's Live Science and
Technology Park, located at 1951 NW Seventh Ave., is scheduled to open Tuesday, Sept. 20.
UM and Miami officials say the facility will be a boon to Overtown but some activists fear jobs at the facility will not go to residents and increased property values will drive poorer households out of the community.
Representatives of the Miami Workers Center, a community organizing group based in Liberty City, have pushed UM to sign a “community benefits agreement” specifying precisely what steps the university would take for Overtown.
The university has refused, saying its plans already include community benefits.
The $33 million, 225,000-square-foot facility will house laboratories, office and retail space and create as many as 500 jobs.
About $5.8 million was intended to offer small business opportunities and developer Wexford Science and Technology was to guarantee 15 percent of all construction contracts to minority business and 30 percent of construction jobs to local residents. Wexford also was to offer some $700,000 in grants to local communities.
The broader project ultimately will include local community health, youth, education and other programs.
Connie Bailey, a nurse recruiter at UM's Miller School of Medicine, said job applicants who need additional skills can receive training but she wonders about those who do not take advantage of available opportunities.
"I want us to get away from this attitude: 'What are you doing for me?' What are you doing for yourself?" she said.
Lee Castro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and Leonela Bravo at email@example.com.
Photo: Khary Bruyning/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES
R-L, Miami Dade College students, Ybette Pons & Ivette Perez encourage ladies to have regular breast exams.