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Boston plan tells where jobs are and helps train citizens for them

For Mildred Martin, finding a job in Boston seemed so overwhelming that she didn't even bother to look. A divorced mother with only a high school education and no skills, she figured she had little to offer in the competitive Boston job market. After a visit to the Boston Jobstart program in her South Boston neighborhood, however, Ms. Martin was surprised to find how many job opportunities are available. Jobstart taught her about the jobs and helped boost her self-esteem. In a few months she was offered a job in a nearby hotel as a telephone operator.

``I have been working for four months and I love my job. They [at Jobstart] ... put me on the right track,'' Martin says.

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Jobstart is helping other citizens tune into the job market and the opportunities there. Neighborhood Jobstart offices were opened last August and are part of the larger Boston Jobs Academy program that is to begin in March.

The Jobs Academy will complement the Jobstart program by offering short-term job training for Boston residents who lack confidence in competing for employment. The initiative was introduced by Mayor Raymond Flynn at his second inaugural this week. It is designed to help residents take part in the job opportunities of a city whose economy is booming.

Currently, Boston has an unemployment rate of 2.7 percent, with more jobs - particularly service-related jobs - being created every year. Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis estimates that when final figures are available, the state will likely have the lowest jobless rate among America's industrial states for the fifth year in a row. And, according to Kristen McCormack of the Mayor's Office of Jobs and Community Development, the Boston area should see 10,000 new jobs every year for the next 10 years.

Despite the city's low unemployment rate, a majority of the jobs in the city are not held by Bostonians. From 1984 to 1986, Ms. McCormack says, only 40 percent of jobs in the city were held by Boston residents. ``Since the 1950s, the percentage of jobs held by Boston residents has declined,'' she says.

Part of the reason for the drop is the changing nature of the area's economy, with the disappearance of many manufacturing jobs and the emergence of a large service sector. City residents compete with suburban commuters who are often better educated and have more contacts through school, and even car pools, according to McCormack. Many Boston companies don't even advertise jobs, she says.

The Boston Jobs Academy training program was created by Mayor Flynn with the help of three Boston real estate developers who donated money and office space for the program. The academy is designed to serve people who have some work experience but are hesitant about competing for jobs in the city.

Although the city has an extensive longer-term job-training program, the Boston Jobs Academy program will provide ``a place where someone could go for a three-day brush-up,'' McCormack says.

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Some of the courses to be offered include: communication and presentation, telephone skills and etiquette, and basic math and reading review. Training courses may last from three days to six weeks. Once the training is over, residents will also be helped in their search for jobs. In its first year the program hopes to serve some 550 people at and estimated cost of $300,000.

``It's a matter of needing more training and even more education,'' says Marti Wilson-Taylor of Transitional Employment Enterprises, a Boston public- and corporate-funded organization that helps the disadvantaged find jobs. Ms. Wilson-Taylor says there are ``loads of entry-level jobs'' in the city, but she admits some people have trouble finding jobs on their own.

``A lot of it is in presentation and self-confidence and a lot of it is in filling out a r'esum'e,'' she says.

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