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There are so many positions open that within information technology, we look (outside) to fill a lot of those spots

Senecas go "outside" for high tech hires

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Employment numbers aren't good in western New York. But the Seneca Nation is bucking the trend. The Nation is working fast to fill jobs, especially those calling for highly-skilled workers.

There are enough jobs that the Senecas are looking outside of their own community to fill those positions. Case in point: Seneca Niagara Casino. The Innovation Trail's Daniel Robison reports.

Support for the Innovation Trail comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The Innovation Trail is a collaboration between five upstate public media outlets, reporting about New York's innovation economy.

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Hundreds of gamblers, mostly of retirement age, fill the floor of the Seneca Niagara Casino with smoke and bubbly slot machine sounds. It takes a small army to keep this place running 24 hours a day, including a regiment known as the information technology  department.

They’re looking for new recruits, in part, to prevent something like casino heist flick Ocean’s 11.
“Folks in information security are responsible for making sure that doesn’t happen here,” says IT recruiter Navpreet Jatana.

So, the Seneca Nation of Indians, already one of the largest employers in western New York, is creating dozens of new jobs in the IT field. These positions are the type every community wants: highly-skilled with solid salary and benefits.

To find qualified candidates, Senecas first comb their rolls. In fact, there¿s something called the Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance, which gives a leg up to Native American applicants.

“It’s about preference, not entitlement,” says Renita DiStefano, IT vice president.

She puts the issue this way: if there are two equally qualified candidates, but one is a member of the Nation, then the Seneca gets the job.

“But quite honestly there are so many positions open that within information technology, it is a specialized field, we look to the community to fill a lot of those spots,” DiStefano says.

By community, she means western New York’s two million or so non-Senecas. These days, the Nation’s population hovers at just about 7,500 people, meaning the Senecas’ in-house pool of jobseekers doesn’t usually qualify for positions like this.

So, there are cattle calls that attracts a hoard of non-Seneca applicants, like George Refermet.
“For me, it’s excellent. I’m just recently going to be graduating from college in the information technology [field]. The IT field is awesome right now. There’s lots of openings for it. And the pay scale is great,” Refermet says.

This is a new career path for Refermet, who thinks his choice to go back to school to improve his odds of landing a job. But first, he’ll have to convince the likes of recruiter Navpreet Jatana, who sits at a small table waiting for resumes to slide across it.

“Typically an employer doesn’t spent hours looking at a resume. We have a finite amount of time. We have multiple candidates. We want to take a quick scan,” Jatana says.

In other words,  “You have about ten seconds to impress me with that document,” he says.

Which is about the same amount of time it takes to know if you’ve hit the jackpot.

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