CMP (formerly Chinatown Manpower Project, Inc.) is an NYIC member organization that promotes economic self-sufficiency and career advancement through equipping individuals with job & educational skills, credentials, leadership qualities, and entrepreneurship opportunities with a distinct record of serving the Asian-American community. The NYIC visited their office on Mulberry Street and spoke with their Assistant Executive Director, Stephanie Lau to learn more about their organization.
What kind of work does your organization do?
CMP is a workforce development agency trying to help people achieve economic self sufficiency. We do that through four buckets of work. One is work readiness, where we work with youth and adults and provide ESL, computer trainings, out of school youth programs, summer youth employment programs, and so on. The next is career development and vocational training. We provide Certified Nurse Aid training, EKG and phlebotomy training, freight forwarding operator training, and books and accounting training. The third is the entrepreneurship piece, where we work with aspiring and existing entrepreneurs to start opening their own businesses. We provide technical assistance, classroom trainings, and community workshops to these entrepreneurs. The last bucket is something we call community. It’s where we provide services that are not necessarily directly tied to economic self sufficiency, but they are tied to helping one better themselves - for example, our Chinese school, SAT prep class, English conversation classes, and tax prep services.
Whose lives are you trying to impact?
We want to impact mainly low-income communities and immigrant communities throughout the Asian community. Our founding is based on the Chinese community, but we know that the Asian community is growing in different arenas, and we want to be able to offer workforce development to those clients as well.
What does being a member of the NYIC mean to you?
Even though we’re new, we’ve been working with the NYIC for many years. The things we’ve always been involved in have been trainings the NYIC provide and larger advocacy activities throughout the city. We’ve been informed by the NYIC, because sometimes we may be focused on one particular issue pertaining to immigrants, mainly workforce development. The NYIC helps us focus on the larger issues that affect immigrants and that’s what is really helpful to us.
How has your organization impacted your community?
Probably in more ways than we could count! We’ve been around since 1972, so we’re 44 years old. We started in a church basement here in Chinatown offering ESL classes. When we outgrew that we moved to this space on Mulberry Street in 1976. Right after 9/11 we had a huge surge in service. We now work with about three or four thousand clients and we’ve been doing that steadily for the last 10 years. Our guesstimate of the number of people that we’ve served would be close to 40,000.
What are some campaigns and initiatives you guys are currently working on?
Like I mentioned, we’re trying to work with the greater Asian community. We’ve been working recently and had the chance to do some outreach to the Korean community in Flushing. We felt that they were the second largest group as of right now so that became our main focus. We just hired a person who has an outpost in Flushing and has been promoting our services to the Korean community there. We’re mainly doing outreach right now and where there’s a larger group that know what we do we’ll be able to provide more services.
Would you say you work more closely with recent immigrants or Asian-Americans that have been here for a while?
Both, actually. For the most part we work with recent immigrants. In our youth programs and afterschool programs we get people who are fresh off the plane - literally two days off the plane! There are other people in our ESL classes, entrepreneurship classes, and even our career development classes that have basically been out of the workforce and need help getting started even if they’ve been here for ten or twenty years.
So what is the overall story of CMP?
The one major thing we care about is making sure someone can go out there on their own. The components of that are first: Do they have a living wage job? Two: Can they better communicate in their community - whatever that means for them, whether it’s people in the street, at school, or their jobs? Third is furthering opportunities for themselves and opening their eyes and doors to those opportunities. That can mean post-secondary education or understanding where you can go from an entry level job.
What are some accomplishments your organization is proud of?
Being able to help people start businesses. While the majority of them are not big companies, they still employ anywhere between two to five people. Being able to provide youth their first working experience has been huge for us. Being able to influence all of our clients’ lives positively. Our clients in an informal capacity have come in and out of our lives. Once somebody learns that you work at CMP, everyone in our community has heard of us - which is great! That impact can’t be replicated.
Do you have any upcoming events or programs you would like people to know about?
In September we’ll be having our job fair, location and date to be determined. Ongoing, we’ll have programs starting in August and September like our adult literacy classes. We’ll have our entrepreneurship training in October.
What do you wish the public knew about your organization?
That we do more than English classes. Most people know about our services but the number one thing that we’re known for in the community are English language help and jobs, but there’s a middle ground to that like training, work readiness, and entrepreneurship, with which we can also provide help.