The youths were employees of Lake Success-based Green Earth Contractors, which has hired some workers through the state's NY Youth Works Program. The program aims to combat high unemployment rates among low-income young people.
Hempstead and Brookhaven towns, two of 12 areas around the state the program focuses on, have unemployment rates for 16- to 24-year-olds of 21.5 percent and 18.1 percent respectively, the Labor Department said. Long Island's overall rate is 7.2 percent.
So far, 64 Long Island employers have signed up to participate in the program, which was announced in January. Employers receive as much as $4,000 in state tax credits for each individual employed at least one year. The young people earn at least the minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour.
Christine Jones, a co-owner of Green Earth, said at the gathering of officials in Rockville Centre Friday that because of the program's incentives, she has been able to expand her workforce. "We're able to pull from a resource that gives you a tax credit and . . . helps you pay for training," she said.
In the past six months, Green Earth has hired Sergio Vinals and Kaisean Mays, both 20 and from Hempstead Village.
Vinals, who previously worked for a hardware store, said a friend told him about the company. He was recently promoted to team leader.
"I am a person who likes to work with his hands," he said. "So this is my kind of job."
Mays said he had been looking for a job for about nine months before a counselor at a state career-services program in Hempstead told him about Green Earth. He said that Jones has made working a great learning experience.
"I benefit so much from her," he said. "I didn't know that much stuff before I started working."
Businesses have until Nov. 30 to sign up for the program and can find out more at jobs.ny.gov/youthworks. Young adults have until Dec. 31 to apply and should call 877-226-5724 or visit one of the department's One-Stop Career Centers in Hauppauge, Hempstead Village, Hicksville, Massapequa or Patchogue.