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IKEA superstore gears up

Ikea has started its push to hire Red Hook residents at its soon-to-open Beard Street superstore, pictured here last week.
The Brooklyn Paper / Jeff Bachner

The clock is ticking for Red Hook residents on their head start to get jobs at the long-awaited Ikea in Brooklyn.

The Swedish home furnishing giant began accepting online applications for 500 full- and part-time jobs on Monday from people living in the 11231 ZIP code — three weeks before those positions will be open to the general public.

“It’s game time. We’re ramping up,” said Randy Peers, who runs a job-training group called Red Hook Works, which is partially funded by Ikea. “[Ikea’s] goal is to hire as many people from 11231 as are qualified.”

A promise to give early hiring preference to people from the local community — an economically depressed area with the city’s largest public housing project — helped secure public support for the controversial project in 2004.

Ikea is drumming up awareness of the job openings by mass mailings in Red Hook, leafleting apartments in the Red Hook Houses and conducting 12 information sessions for potential job seekers.

About 40 people gathered on Tuesday night for one of these meetings within the Red Hook Houses — home to about 7,000 people in a neighborhood where unemployment runs at 20 percent.

“It sounds awesome,” said Michelle Valez, who showed up with her husband and three children of working age. “It would be good to have a place near home for my kids to work so I don’t have to worry.”

In addition to tapping into the local talent for its own needs, Ikea is paying for general job training and placement services through Red Hook Works.

Business experts applauded Ikea for a well-devised recruitment effort.

“I believe they’re trying to reach out,” said Chinyere Emmanuel Egbe, a business professor at Medgar Evers College. “The way they’re doing it is as good as any other method.”

But the hiring strategy isn’t all rosy. One deterrent to getting a strong turnout from local residents for low-paying jobs is that all positions are only being filled by online applications.

To compensate, Red Hook Works and Red Hook Rise is offering free computer access and assistance.

Red Hook Works and Red Hook Rise are providing computer access for people to fill out the online applications. Call Red Hook Works for info, (718) 596-1327.

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