JERSEY CITY, NJ — Just six months after a public shakeup that saw its high-profile former director depart the agency, the Jersey City Employment and Training Program (JCETP) is in the midst of a major turnaround that translates to significantly more assistance for local residents seeking employment/underemployment services and out of school youth and adults transitioning out of incarceration and back into society. Under the leadership of Acting Executive Director Sudhan Thomas, JCETP has made significant strides in operational efficiency, realizing $2 million in cost savings and elimination of waste, which has helped close a $1 million budget gap while expanding programs and services and creating robust partnerships.
“JCETP can provide a vital ladder of opportunity for some of our most vulnerable residents who most need assistance building a career and a life,” said Thomas, whose extensive background in banking & financial operations have proven invaluable to the organization. “We believe JCETP’S darkest days are behind us, and the 35,000 citizens of Jersey City needing underemployment and unemployment services can finally look to JCETP for tangible services towards financial self-reliance”
JCETP has expanded its client base significantly in the last six months, with a 20% overall increase in unemployment/underemployment clients, as well as a 30% increase among re-entry clients. The agency for the first time will service over 4,000 clients in a 12 month cycle of which more than 2,550 were serviced in the last 6 months under the leadership of Thomas. This improvement has been primarily driven by the organization entering into several strategic partnerships, opening of four satellite one stop locations and offering extended hours for the first time. JCETP services are now available from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on weekdays and 7:00 a.m. to 07:00 p.m. on both Saturdays and Sundays. The agency is working directly with various court programs, prison programs and probation officers to extend intervention services to more first-time offenders.
“The JCETP turnaround story under the leadership of Sudhan Thomas has been truly remarkable for Jersey City,” said Rev. Tinia Bland, President of local community group Black Interest Team Enterprise (BITE). “We are very encouraged by the dramatic increases in the agency’s performance metrics. Our great city is finally assuaged that JCETP will be a source of hope for comprehensive one-stop employment services for the most vulnerable in our community; particularly on the south side of the city.”
From 2013 to 2018, JCETP was in a period of steady decline as evidenced by several objective factors revealed in operational audits. The organization’s budget was reduced from $6 million to $2.7 million, while staff headcount was cut in half from 50 to 25. Significant overlap in staffing and resources with the statewide non-profit New Jersey Re-Entry Corporation had a negative effect on operational efficiency and employee morale, with many of JCETP’s top executives simultaneously working for NJRC without board authorization for shared services or payment transfer, and importantly in serious violation of Department of Labor rules for usage of restricted funds.
Thomas and JCETP’s Board of Directors have worked diligently to reverse these trends and redirect resources back to Jersey City and away from NJRC. After taking control of JCETP, Thomas moved immediately to begin a forensic audit of the organization’s finances that revealed numerous irregularities under previous leadership. JCETP is working with City, County, State and Federal government to account for all previous funding and put the organization on sound financial footing.
“The JCEPT Board fired Jim McGreevey because they felt there were financial improprieties,” said Jersey City spokeswoman Kim Wallace-Scalcion. “Since then, under Sudhan Thomas’s leadership, they hired an outside accounting firm and have completed a forensic audit which confirmed their suspicion of millions of dollars unaccounted for or re-directed out of JCETP and into the nonprofit run by Jim McGreevey, the New Jersey Re-entry Corporation. The matter has been referred over to law enforcement and we commend the board for hiring an outside auditor, as well as the City Council for continuing to fund JCETP.”
Looking into the future, JCETP has set several ambitious goals for the coming year:
- Expanding unemployment and underemployment services to 7,000 clients
- Expanding re-entry services to 1,000 clients
- Expanding out of school youth services to 1,000 clients
- Targeting 500 clients with a unique training and placements program in specially identified areas of Information Technology, Landscaping, Warehousing & Logistics, Travel & Hospitality, Building Trades
- Targeting 600 training school enrollments for the underemployed through allocation of $1.8 million to training slots
- Creating an Employer Exchange program connecting Jersey City businesses with potential new employees
- Growing the organization’s youth program by partnering with local and county schools
- Increasing services at 5 one stop employment service locations across Jersey City to offer full and comprehensive services.
- Launching a bus service to coordinate client transportation between its 5 offices and different community location
- Providing a 4% across the board salary increase to rank and file employees and investing in professional development while reducing spending on bloated administrative costs and consulting contracts