A society that understands and embraces the need of full participation and inclusion of all its members will remain a strong and leading business-force within newly emerging and highly competing contemporary markets. Chronically high unemployment need not plague minority communities indefinitely. Solutions exist, and hope is on the horizon.

Jim Kernan Signature


“By fully embracing all members of society, the US will remain a
highly competitive nation.”

Skilled Workers Mr. Kernan is creating access for those who have been historically discouraged to join skilled artisan trades due to the fact that apprenticeship craft training has been controlled for so long by organized labor. Understanding, as well as consolidating, the needs for access and education equally, Mr. Kernan developed an apprenticeship training program with the SUNY Maritime College.

Private Sector Solution to a Public Sector Problem

Mr. Kernan created Oriska Insurance in 1990 to support minority businesses within the construction industry. Oriska Insurance offers products for an industry that is not easily accessible for minorities. The provision of an entry-level bonding opportunity includes mentoring to ensure the bonding principals are able to complete the project on-time and on-budget. The worker’s compensation, disability benefits and health insurance are easing the burden, covering incalculable risks in a socially responsible manner and guaranteeing compliance with the law. Mr. Kernan pioneered this private-sector solution to create flourishing businesses within distressed communities.

Overcoming Obstacles through Innovation

Jim Kernan Gives a Speech Mr. Kernan is known for an innovative spirit, turning stagnant traditions and bureaucratic hurdles that too often become obstacles for the disadvantaged, into future-oriented concepts. He identified the three main causes of concern that prevent minority workers from fully participating and equally advancing in society. Those are missing skill sets within trades, mentoring and a lack of the financial protection required to compete.

Creating Flourishing Business Landscapes within Distressed Communities

Acutely aware of the hardship minority businesses face when trying to compete, Mr. Kernan developed solutions to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit needed to lift entire communities struggling today. He created opportunities within the construction industry’s skilled trades, where training, mentoring and access to capital could have a significant impact on minorities. To address these key factors, Mr. Kernan developed private sector solutions that train minorities in skilled trades, mentor them in business development and provide them the financial protection to bid on large public works projects. In essence, Mr. Kernan gives distressed communities a pathway to the American Dream.

The Foundations to Succeed

Mr. Kernan first became involved in apprentice training and the issues of disparate treatment in 1978 when he was recruited to provide assistance in the preparation of affirmative action apprenticeship training to address the Percy v. Brennan Case 73-cv-04279. Mr. Kernan’s experience with the subject of apprentice training began in 1968 when, subject to the lottery draft, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps and reported to the Parris Island Recruit Depot assigned to Platoon 1039 for boot camp basic training, graduating on December 8, 1968, reporting to Camp Lejeune North Carolina for infantry training.

He received advanced infantry training at Camp Lejeune/Camp Geiger North Carolina and ordinance ammunition training at Quantico Virginia. Based on competitive testing Mr. Kernan was offered an appointment as a Midshipman in the US Navy pursuant to Title 10 §2107 of the US Code for commissioning as a Second Lieutenant in the US Marine Corps trained for field combat engineering. Mr. Kernan accepted and reported to the Navy Department’s attachment at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) for engineering training, which would change his MOS from 2311 Ordnance to 3102 Combat Engineer Officer. Orders were in preparation for Mr. Kernan to report to the First Marine Combat Engineering Battalion of the First Marine Division for permanent duty station Pendleton, California upon being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, for processing and deployment as engineering reinforcements to South Vietnam.

Then, in the early months of 1971, as the US withdrew from South Vietnam enemy engagement ceased, combat engineering strength went from more than 20,000 to by May 1971 to less than 1000. On May 24, 1971 the First Marine Combat Engineer Battalion withdrew from South Vietnam and shipped back to Pendleton, California. The last Marine Corps ground action in Vietnam was in May 1971. The withdrawal which began on January 1, 1971 was complete by the end of May 1971. This was at the same time that anti‐war protests were reaching their peak and on June 13, 1971 the Pentagon Papers began to be published by the New York Times.

When Field combat engineers were no longer needed in South Vietnam, preparations for Mr. Kernan’s deployment ceased. Instead he was offered the option of a duty station stateside or he could decline the commission and retire from military service. On June 21, 1971, Mr. Kernan volunteered to forego the commission and retire. his discharge rating on a scale of 1 to 10, was scored 9 on intelligence, with a “Highly Recommended” “evaluation to be considered in the future for determination of acceptability for other officer training”, with remark pertaining to the evaluation that “Kernan has demonstrated excellent potential for leadership”. On July 8, 1971 Mr. Kernan was released from duty by the Department of the Navy and with his DD214 Honorable Discharge from enlisted ranks of the US Marine Corps, he mustered out. Mr. Kernan put his uniforms in mothballs and put his military service behind him; it was a single line on his resume. In those days from 1968 to 1971 it was not cool to be in the military, the un‐welcome to Vietnam era vets. Mr. Kernan has a renewed pride in having served honorably as a United States Marine, he has become a member of the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, the Marine Corps League and the Commander of the Battle of Oriskany Masonic War Vets, regaining pride in military service.

Mr. Kernan’s military service was the underpinning for what has become Percy Jobs and Careers. In civilian life over the next 40 years, he put his military experience and training to use with Percy Jobs and Careers. Mr. Kernan left military service returning to civilian life as a veteran trained as a combat engineer in demolition, explosives and ordnance, skilled in civil and mechanical trades for demolition support, field construction of machinery, structures, systems and controls. He took a civilian job as a field explosive demolition engineer supervising blasting and drilling crews. After working in the field, he was transferred to the main headquarters of Hercules Inc., a chemical and explosives manufacturer formerly affiliated with DuPont, located in Wilmington, Delaware.

Mr. Kernan completed his BS degree in mechanical with civil engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1972. He was promoted in 1974 to Senior Engineer at Hercules, Inc. Mr. Kernan served four‐years as an engineer‐in‐training apprentice with advanced placement for military service and training in civilian work, enabling him to sit for the engineer‐and‐training and professional engineering exams simultaneously, and upon testing in 1976 became licensed as a Professional Engineer in Delaware and New York.

While working for Hercules, Mr. Kernan attended night law school, completing in 1976. He sat for the New York bar exam and was admitted to the practice of law in New York in 1977.

Mr. Kernan began practicing law as a sole practitioner and worked as Confidential Law Clerk for New York State Supreme Court Justice John R. Tenney, where he researched and wrote motion terms. Mr. Kernan was a member of the Panel of Arbitrators for the American Arbitration Association for 10 years beginning in 1979, specializing in complex construction arbitration disputes, including abitrating the default and design deficit for the speed skating oval in Lake Placid and other issues surrounding the 1980 Olympics.

Below describes the next decades.


Entrepreneurial Acumen

Mr. Kernan became licensed as a Professional Engineer in 1976 founded Kernan Engineering in Oriskany, New York, specializing in engineering design, concentrating on heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, civil, sewer, water, power distribution, transportation and environmental planning.

The Calling to Public Service

Mr. Kernan served as Justice for the Village of Oriskany in the early 1980s where he adjudicated misdemeanor criminal matters, traffic infractions and resolved small claim civil disputes. He was appointed by the Office of Court Administration as a Judge of the Utica City Court to fill a vacancy.

Mr. Kernan has testified as an expert witness in complex financial, engineering, risk analysis disputes in litigation and arbitration, specialized in risk management, alternate dispute resolution, public records research, risk management involving interpreting contracts, identifying managing risk, investigating reliability of witnesses and businesses, and analyzing contract enforcement options.

In 1994, Mr. Kernan was awarded a commendation by the Oneida County Deputy Sheriffs Benevolent Association for his work with law enforcement officers over the years from 1981 through 1994.

As a certified risk control and return-to-work expert under New York State Department of Labor “Industrial Code Rule 59 & 60” since 1997, Mr. Kernan analyzed insureds’ risk exposure for employer business operations, reporting, and recommending methods to reduce exposure with follow-up verifying implementation.

Confronting Challenges to Minority Communities

Laying the groundwork to assist minority and small businesses, Mr. Kernan concentrated his law practice on surety bonding, construction litigation, personal injury, real estate, wills and estates associated with the general practice of law.  From the mid-1980s Mr. Kernan concentrated his practice on construction, surety bonding, Davis-Bacon labor matters, workers’ compensation, insurance coverage disputes, and ERISA benefits for employees in the construction industry, benefit design and management; all issues that benefited minority and small businesses.

History of Mr. Kernan’s Association with the Percy Program

The Percy Program was developed by Mr. Kernan as a plan to fit the framework required of Percy v. Brennan Case 73-cv-04279 and a decision issued by the Appellate Division Fourth Department of the New York State Supreme Court in a case brought by the New York State Department of Labor against Lancaster Development, Inc., Madden Construction, Inc., and Eastern Rock Products, Inc. The Lancaster decision, Lancaster Development, Inc. v. Ross 82 A.D.2d 1013, identified the need for a framework to provide employee benefits, including apprenticeship, to meet supplemental wage benefit requirements in compliance with the New York State Labor Law §220 and the federal Davis-Bacon Act 40 USC §§276a to 276a-5. The Percy Program was developed to address the Percy vs Brennan decision and the adverse Lancaster decision and to provide affirmative action that would benefit employees on public work projects.

by Mr. Kernan submitted the Program for approval to the Defendant United States Department of Labor. By a letter of direction of June 14, 1984, the United States Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration Wage and Hour Division advised that the provisions of the Program and their accompanying trust and adoption agreements were reviewed and it was the opinion of the United States Department of Labor that they qualified as “bona fide” fringe benefit plans within the meaning of the Davis-Bacon Act and the applicable regulations of 29 CFR Part 5. That craft apprenticeship for workers training to attain journeyman status was allowed to be offset against the fringe benefit requirements only if the US Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (BAT) or the appropriate State apprenticeship council recognized by BAT has approved the apprenticeship program.

On January 25, 1991, Mr. Kernan obtained approval for Oriska Corporation as an apprenticeship sponsor under regulation [part 601] and Article 23 of the New York State Labor Law, qualified under the 1937 National Apprenticeship Act section 1 (29 U.S.C. 50) under U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (BAT) and C.F.R.T. 29, Subt. A, Pt. 29 and Pt. 30. (the Fitzgerald Act). Registration of the Percy Apprenticeship Program under the regulation 12 N.Y.C.R.R. 601.8 that existed when the Oriska Corporation program was registered, and remains in full force and effect.

In 1991 Mr. Kernan utilized the Percy Program with the apprentice training as an Alternative Employment Practice to be provided with workers’ compensation insurance coverage as part of risk-management and loss control by the insurance carrier, incorporating apprenticeship training into the workers’ compensation insurance risk management, loss control and safety training of employees, by enrolling new entrants to the workforce to work alongside existing journeypersons, growing the depth of skilled workers, skilled workers whose ranks are being diminished through age and attrition. The workers’ compensation carrier subsidizes the apprenticeship programs by recognizing the savings in reduction of losses which reduces the exposures and liabilities of the claims required to be paid by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier.

The Percy Program was developed with the assistance of predecessors of Defendant State DFS officers: former Chief Deputy Frank Donohue, and former General Counsel Morty Greenspan, who worked tirelessly to shepherd the development of the Percy Program. The singular mix of tools provide training and working environments that exists nowhere else. Such rich benefits under the Percy Program results in retention of well trained, competent and safety conscious workers for employers who participate in the Percy Program.

It happens that 90% of the persons accessing the Percy Program have been minority or disadvantaged by natural selection, meaning that the disadvantaged have a difficult time being accepted into organized labor OJT apprenticeship programs. The Percy Program can work with unions utilizing union journeypersons for OJT apprenticeship of Percy apprentices, providing jobs to union members and apprentices, benefiting all.

The Percy Program begun in 1984 by Mr. Kernan, for 25 years has provided apprenticeship to hundreds in the skilled trades. The Percy Program moved from upstate New York to the Bronx in 1999 to accomplish the same substantial and permanent good that was accomplished upstate.

In 1998, Mr. Kernan through Oriska Corporation on behalf of the Percy Program, began the Apprenticeship Programs in the New York City area at SUNY Maritime College in the Bronx. The Percy Apprentice Training Program is an integral part of safety training and loss control for Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage and Employee Benefit insurance coverages designed specifically to comply with prevailing wage and supplement benefit requirements for the construction industry. The related classroom instruction part of apprenticeship training was designed to comply with requirements of the New York State Departments of Labor and Education. Since 1999, the Percy Program, in partnership with State University of New York Maritime College (“SUNY Maritime”), has trained skilled trade persons through the OJT Apprentice Program.

The Percy Program works under the delegation of authority by the Federal Bureau of Apprenticeship Training to the NYS Departments of Education and Labor. The Percy Program works under the guidance, authorization and regulation of the New York State Departments of Education and Labor.

Workers’ safety is affected positively utilizing the Percy Program, resulting in greater control of risk, reducing loss for employers and injuries and illnesses to employees, through instruction in safe and healthful practices.

The length of apprenticeship varies from two to five years, depending on the occupation. The Program works especially well in public works construction where the federal Davis-Bacon law and the NYS Labor Law Article 8 keep wages in the skilled trades high. The apprentice is paid a percentage of the journeyperson rate while in apprenticeship as part of the workforce working under the guidance of more experienced workers called journeypersons.

Successful completion of all requirements results in award of a NYS Department of Labor Certificate recognized by the Federal Bureau of Apprenticeship Training verifying journeyperson competency.

Creating Pathways to Success for Minorities

Skilled WorkersAs part of apprentice training programs for which Mr. Kernan was registered with the New York State Department of Labor, he developed work processes for On-the-Job training and related classroom instruction for the following skilled construction trades:  Carpenter, Plumber, Steam Fitter, Mason, Steelworker, Roofer, Operating Engineer, Electrician, and Skilled Laborer.

Mr. Kernan was appointed by the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor to the Apprenticeship Training Task force, to establish guidelines for classroom instruction in the skilled construction trades.

Skilled WorkerMr. Kernan was appointed by the US Secretary of Labor as a member of ERISA Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee, for the first rulemaking undertaken by the USDOL Pension & Welfare Benefits Administration. Mr. Kernan was awarded a commendation by Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman on April 11, 2000 for 2 years voluntary work on the Rulemaking Committee, which ultimately resulted in the publication of the ERISA §3(40) Rule.

During the late 1990s, Mr. Kernan became licensed as a Professional Engineer in several jurisdictions in the mid-Atlantic region of the US.  He also became licensed as a General Contractor in Florida after taking and passing the appropriate licensing exams.

Mr. Kernan initiated a successful minority and disadvantaged business enterprise bonding program guaranteed by the US Department of Transportation and the US Small Business Administration which ran from 1998 through 2002.

Today Mr. Kernan has consolidated his knowledge and understanding of apprenticeship programs and surety bonding to lift distressed communities out of poverty and solve the chronic unemployment that affects them. His vision is to establish and mentor legitimate entrepreneurs who organically create jobs from within these communities. In essence, hiss vision is to reestablish the American dream for all.


Creating Pathways to Success

Driven by the belief that economic opportunities can create pathways to success for disadvantaged groups and that “a society that understands and embraces the need of full participation and inclusion of all its members will remain a strong and leading business-force within newly emerging and highly competing contemporary markets,” Mr. Kernan works tirelessly.  He has assembled the pieces necessary to lift up those struggling and help them join the America in which he has prospered. 

New York State Recognizes Kernan’s Job-Training for the Advancement of Minority Workers

kernan5The New York State Department of Labor registered Mr. Kernan’s initiative for On-the-Job training and related classroom instruction in the following skilled construction trades: Carpentry, Plumbing, Steam and Pipe Fitter, Mason, Steelworker, Roofer, Operating Engineer, Electrician, and Skilled Laborer. The state’s public acknowledgement is not only proving the programs validity, but is pointing out its necessity in preparing America for a new set of challenges in a swiftly changing world and transforming markets.

Learn more about the job training programs in:

NYS University Connections Newsletter, pg. 13 (2002)

SUNY Research Foundation Annual Report, pg. 12 (2001)

Reorganizing Industry to Benefit Society

Mr. Kernan uses a private sector solution to address a public sector problem. He made it his business that minority-owned businesses succeed. He established Oriska Insurance and developed products that advance opportunities for minority and small businesses. For example, he ensures that every minority business to which his company provides surety bonding has mentors to guide them through the process of securing certification and bidding on contracts. (Learn about the benefits of mentoring that Oriska’s surety bonding principals receive by clicking here.)

Mr. Kernan designed his insurance company to provide the necessary financial protection while ensuring minority-owned businesses meet all the legal requirements imposed by the Davis Bacon Act and NYS Labor Law. In the past these have been insurmountable hurdles for minority-owned businesses, but today, thanks to Mr. Kernan’s tenacious commitment to guarantee an equal chance at success for all, these hurdles have been removed.

At Home

Even at home, exploring a better way…

Jim Kernan by the PoolNot many people with a pool look for ways to incorporate it into their home’s heating and cooling system, but Mr. Kernan wanted to make his home and office (both are in the same 1890 Victorian building complex) the most efficient, energy-saving complex possible. His idea was to use his 40,000 gallon pool to provide thermal storage, or a heat sink, for the heating and cooling system. A heat sink transfers thermal energy from a higher temperature source to a lower temperature source. Not surprisingly, as an engineer, Mr. Kernan relished the challenge.

Kernan in the GarageBecause the engineering was a labor of love and hobby, it was modified over many years and served as a training ground and experimentation opportunity for systems designed for clients. The piping and equipment connections appear to be a deliberately over-engineered nest of piping, controls and equipment.

Mr. Kernan often laughs at the backward efficiencies of the system. “In the summer too much heat is deposited in the heat sink when the air-conditioning loads are greatest making the pool too hot; and too little heat is deposited in the heat sink in the winter (primarily from the computer loads) leaving the pool cooler in the winter than you would like for swimming.”

Mr. Kernan finds great pleasure in experimenting with the design to improve the systems effectiveness. “This is a passion of mine,” Kernan shares. “The greatest thrill in the world is to find ways to make things work better and advance our society.”


Press Clippings

The Obamacare Challenge: Recruiting and Retaining Employees Without Reducing Profits

Rewarding your best employees with healthcare benefits used to be standard operating procedure, but the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, is challenging this practice…

Featured in: WallStreet SelectNewsDayBoston GlobeBeyond the DowFix NYCCBS NewsBusiness Insurance, and more

Owner has plans for former Waterbury Felt Mill in Oriskany

After 200 years of serving as the economic engine for the village and surrounding region, the abandoned Waterbury Felt Mill might see life once again. The old River Street wool mill, which once employed more than 300 people in Oriskany, has been deteriorating since it abruptly closed about a year ago…

Oriskany native’s program addresses skilled labor shortage

Jim Kernan remembers a time when New York’s greatest asset was its skilled labor force. Now, he feels that resource eroding beneath his feet; so he has decided to do something about it…

Insurance Company Founder Files Class Action Lawsuit Against The Nys Department Of Financial Services

A pro se class action lawsuit has been filed this week by James Matthew Kernan, founder of Oriska Insurance on behalf of independent entrepreneurs, and small and minority business enterprises…

Rehashed Failed Policies Won’t Solve Chronic Unemployment

Bring back paid Apprenticeships. Chronic unemployment among black males is at 50% according to Columbia Professor Dr. Manning Marable. Chronic unemployment among white males is…

Solving Chronic Unemployment by Creating Minority Entrepreneurs – Huffington Post

The U.S. government is looking for solutions. It requires that a certain percentage of its contracts be awarded to minority firms, but this can create its own set of problems and often times doesn’t live up to its intention. Large public works projects, for example, require that 9 percent of the budget be awarded to minority firms, but more often than not, large developers would rather anticipate fines then assume the risk of hiring an unknown, unbonded, minority firm that may not perform the work on time or within budget. (read more)

Crowds line up for tours of historic factory

ORISKANY — Local businessman James Kernan is spearheading the revival of the former felt mill on River Street, but first Kernan is spearheading a different sort of revival. On Saturday, dozens of visitors came to former Waterbury Felt Factory to tour the building and get a close-up view of some village history — that previously most had only seen from the outside.


Jim Kernan on WUTQ on Opportunities for Disadvantaged Persons:



Mr. Kernan frequently avails himself to speak with reporters, business groups, policymakers and academics. To learn more and arrange a speaking engagement or interview, please complete form below.

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