Uber CEO offers second chance to those with criminal records

Uber CEOIt’s not often that executives of well-known companies come out publicly in favor of giving those with criminal records a chance in the hiring process. But that’s what Travis Kalanick, co-founder and CEO of Uber, did earlier this month in an Op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle.

According to him, the impetus was California’s Proposition 47, which was passed in November 2014 and reclassified some nonviolent crimes that had previously been felonies as misdemeanors. Uber aligned its hiring practices accordingly.

“As a result, 3,300 people have signed up to drive with Uber to earn a living and stand on their own two feet — in one state (California) alone,” he wrote. “Imagine how many more life-changing opportunities we could create if other states followed suit.”

Kalanick’s attitude toward criminal justice evolves

Running Uber has changed Kalanick’s ideas about criminal justice reform.

“I’d never really thought deeply about criminal justice reform before starting Uber. Now I realize reform is desperately needed. For example, the FBI records many companies use to do background checks don’t include up-to-date data on whether an arrest resulted in a charge or conviction. So if someone is arrested and subsequently acquitted, their “record” may not show that they’re innocent,” he went on to state in the S.F. Chronicle piece.

No matter how you may feel about Uber or working in the so-called “sharing economy,” signing up as an Uber driver may give people in reentry or those having trouble finding work a chance to earn a little extra money or even gain self employment. Those who can’t find full-time work may choose to drive for Uber part time as a second gig – especially during the busy hours when they’re likely to make more money by picking up more riders or the late hours when rates are increased.

Uber driver pay scales

According to press reports – and drivers themselves – the pay for being an Uber driver is far less than Uber claims. In a May 27, 2014 blog posting in the Uber online newsroom, the company claims that the potential income for its UberX drivers is as much as $90,766 per year in New York City and $74,191 in San Francisco.

One Uber driver and blogger at the site I Drive With Uber says he makes between $20 and $25 per hour (in Los Angeles), and the average Uber Driver makes $19 per hour natioinwide. He also says that the average Uber driver in the U.S. can make about $40,000 after expenses and taxes but doesn’t mention whether car wear and tear is included in expenses.

Gary Campbell, a former aerospace engineer who used to drive for Uber and Lyft part time while working at Boeing, left his full-time job to be a blogger known as The Rideshare Guy.

He publishes a free Uber Driver Training Guide on his site for those who might be considering driving for Uber but want to know more about what that experience might be like. The guide covers all the basics, from pay scales and sign-up bonuses to driver and car requirements.

Those with criminal records who decide they might like to be Uber drivers may be happy to know that the company has banned the box on its application form.

And CEO Kalanick has created an opportunity for those with ambitions and willing to work hard to get back on their feet.

“Crime is wrong,” he says. “But once a person has served their time, we need to give them a second chance. Consigning millions of Americans to a life of unemployment — with all the costs that entails — may be the easier option. It’s certainly not the best one for our country.”

 

U.S. Postal Service hires job seekers with criminal records

U.S. Postal ServiceThe U.S. Postal Service is continuously hiring new employees and provides excellent opportunities for those who qualify.

Like most federal agencies, the USPS offers solid benefits and a chance to advance, as well as a variety of jobs. And the pay is pretty good as well. In 2015, the median salary for postal service workers was $56,790 per year, or $27.30 per hour.

Although the postal service’s employment application still contains the dreaded “box,” it does selectively hire those with criminal records.

According to the Application for Employment section of its official handbook, “The Postal Service recognizes that many persons with criminal records have demonstrated successful rehabilitation and are capable of performing the duties of postal jobs. These applicants are entitled to compete for jobs on individual merits.”

Yvonne Ramos, human resources specialist at the San Francisco office of the USPS, concurs.

“Fortunately, the USPS hires them (those with criminal records) with little restrictions,” she says.

USPS offers a variety of job types

And it’s not just letter carriers and post office clerks that the postal service employs. Although these make up the majority of the agency’s workers, according to the book Post Office Jobs by Dennis V. Damp, it also hires building, equipment and vehicle maintenance workers, IT specialists and others.

Those interested in a U.S. Postal Service job can apply online by creating an account and filling out all the information required, including an employment history.

This may be a bit tricky for some who have been incarcerated, because the form won’t be accepted if it has any gaps in time. The workaround for many of those who have served time is to include the jobs they did while in prison and listing the state that they were in as their employer. For example “food service, State of California” for someone who worked in the kitchen of a California state prison.

Those applying for letter carrier jobs that require Test 473 must then fill out an online assessment. Applicants who successfully complete the online assessment are invited to complete a proctored assessment at an approved location. This usually has to be done within a one-week period of time, so it’s important to pay attention to your email messages.

For those who advance to the point of taking the test, there are plenty of ways to prepare, including watching YouTube videos.

Some USPS offices are offering one-hour free workshops providing information on how to take the test. There’s also a detailed explanation of the process on the USPS website.

For those unable to attend one of these workshops, the United States Postal Service website offers examples of sample questions that give a better idea of what the test entails.

USPS test’s four sections

The test is divided into four sections:

  • Part A Address checking comparing two lists of address to see which ones are incorrect.
  • Part B Forms completion concerns determining the information needed to fill out certain forms.
  • Part C Coding and Memory consists of assigning codes based on a coding guide and then assigning codes from memory.
  • Part D Personal Characteristics and Experience Inventory consists of personal questions that evaluate your personality characteristics, work style and experience. There are no right or wrong answers, but they must be answered honestly. This is the most extensive part of the test, with 296 items to be completed in 90 minutes.

After completing both assessments, applicants who the USPS is interested in will be called for an interview. Those who are not chosen can continue to apply for jobs. The test results are valid for six years.

In the meantime, you may want to consider reaching out to the different letter carriers in your community for their insights on the test and other possible suggestions they may have for preparation. In addition, they may know of other job openings. The post office can offer a good career and is worth considering and making it part of your job search plan.

 

New federal pilot project restores Pell Grants for prisoners

Pell GrantsAlthough a college education is not for everyone, it can be a very beneficial use of the time that many people spend behind bars. To help inmates cover the cost of that education, the Obama Administration created the Second Chance Pell pilot program, with 67 participating colleges and universities announced late last month.

Pell Grants are given by the U.S. federal government to students with financial need and they do not need to be repaid. Before 1995 prisoners had access to these grants, but the passage of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act brought an end to the practice. Over the years there have been efforts to restore them, and more than two decades later, Pell Grants for prisoners are back again.

The colleges and universities chosen to participate will partner with more than 100 federal and state penal institutions to enroll roughly 12,000 incarcerated students in educational and training programs. These institutions may provide federal Pell Grants to qualified students who are incarcerated and are likely to be released within five years of enrolling in coursework.

“Access to high quality education is vital to ensuring that justice-involved individuals have an opportunity to reclaim their lives and restore their futures,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

“Through this partnership with the Department of Education and institutions of higher learning around the country, this program will help give deserving incarcerated individuals the skills to live lives of purpose and contribute to society upon their release.”

Most programs classroom-based

Most of the schools are public two-year and four-year institutions that will offer classroom-based instructions on-site at various corrections facilities. Others plan to offer online education or a combination of both classroom and online instruction. About 37 percent of the schools will offer prison-based education for the first time. Although it depends on the institution, schools could begin offering education and training programs as early as July 1.

The colleges and universities selected for the pilot project include Auburn University in Alabama, Bennington College in Vermont, California State University Los Angeles, Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College in Minnesota, Marymount Manhattan College in New York, Rutgers in New Jersey and Tulsa Community College in Oklahoma, among many others.

Research has proved that educating prisoners pays off. A 2013 study from the RAND Corp., funded by the Department of Justice, found that incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who did not participate in any correctional education programs. RAND also estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five dollars are saved on three-year re-incarceration costs.

Recognizing the economic and social benefits of education for prisoners, the Pell Grant pilot project will build on the Obama Administration’s commitment to create a fairer and more effective criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and combat the impact of mass incarceration on families and communities through educational opportunity.

 

Use job shadowing technique to explore opportunities firsthand

job shadowingJob shadowing goes a step beyond informational interviewing and can give you even better insight into a particular field or job. It is also a bit trickier to set up, however, and is not for everyone.

To job shadow means that you spend several hours, a day or even longer, “shadowing” a particular employee as they do their work. This technique can be particularly good if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, because it gives you a chance to explore various jobs and how they’re carried out on a day-to-day basis.

Job shadowing also can be beneficial for those who have a pretty good idea of what type of work they would enjoy, based on their knowledge and skills. For example, you know a lot about hand tools and are thinking about becoming a carpenter’s assistant. Find a carpenter, and ask if you could “shadow” them for a day. You would go to their job site and watch what they do, maybe help out a bit in the process.

How to create a job shadowing opportunity

In order to job shadow you need the cooperation of the person you want to shadow, plus sometimes the permission of the company where that person works. Although this tactic takes time and effort to set up, it will provide a firsthand experience of what a certain type of job entails. And it will give you a new contact or two of people who are working in a field you might like to pursue.

To get the most out of the experience, treat it similarly to an informational interview. Make a list of questions to ask, and as you follow the person through the day observe exactly what they do, what type of tools and equipment they use, and how they interact with co-workers and clients (if they have them).

Also try to talk to the person’s coworkers, who may be doing slightly different jobs and can give you even further insight into the field.

If you can afford it, offer to take the person you are shadowing out to lunch. It’s a small price to pay for the time and attention they are giving you.

When you’re actually applying for work at a later date, you could come back to them to see if they have any jobs and mention some of the things you observed during your job shadowing experience. You may also see something you could improve in their operations, a problem that could be solved or a need that you might be able to fulfill.

Don’t forget a thank you note

After the experience is over, don’t forget to send a thank you note. Although an email note is OK, a hand written card will make a better impression.

While job shadowing may offer an unparalleled opportunity to gain inside knowledge and information about a particular career and/or company, perhaps the best thing it can do is increase your network of contacts and offer one more person who hopefully will be happy to help you on your pathway to employment.

And while you’re busy setting up job shadowing opportunities, you might want to use some of your free time to take a look at the jobshadow.com website, which includes interviews with everyone from a fast food restaurant manager and roofer to a firefighter and fly fishing guide.

 

Dave’s Killer Bread helps create second chance employers

Dave's Killer BreadHow does one become a second chance employer, and why aren’t more companies doing it? Maybe they don’t know how.

But there’s a new way to learn the ropes. One company that knows very well, Dave’s Killer Bread, has increased its efforts to encourage more employers to embrace second chance employment.

And the company is doing that through its Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation, the nonprofit arm that the Milwaukee, Ore.,-based organic bread maker launched early last year. The foundation is creating a variety of programs, including more Second Chance Summits and a Second Chance Playbook, as well as a Second Chance Network to be launched in the future.

The reason for the foundation?

“It’s the formalization of the work we’ve been doing as a company over the past decade in hiring people with criminal backgrounds,” says Genevieve Martin, the foundation’s director.

“What we learned in talking to our partners and nonprofits and government agencies is that there aren’t enough employers who will look at this part of the workforce, and we decided to be leaders in expanding employment opportunities for people with criminal backgrounds.” And the foundation is in the process of putting together more programs to do this.

First Second Chance Summit on East Coast

Although it has held two Second Chance Summits in Portland, the DKB Foundation will host its first 2016 Second Chance Summit East at The New School in New York City on May 24.

The day’s events will include a keynote address by Glenn Martin, founder and president of Just Leadership USA, and a panel of second chance employers who will address the topic of debunking myths. Food will be prepared by the Snow Day Food Truck operated by Drive Change.

The goal is to bring together like-minded employers who can work together to bring about change. “We didn’t want to confine ourselves to speaking only our story the Dave’s Killer bread way. Our way won’t work for everyone. The foundation is collaborative,” Martin says.

Playbook teaches companies how to be second chance employers

The Second Chance Playbook, which launched this month, is a collection of videos on a variety of topics educating companies on issues related to second chance employment. They’re each three to five minutes long, something that employers can watch during their lunch or coffee breaks, according to Martin.

The videos include interviews with subject matter experts, including h.r. professionals in organizations that hire people with criminal backgrounds, an insurance broker speaking about risk mitigation, and people talking about federal incentives that companies can take advantage of, EEOC compliance and background checks, among other subjects.

The Playbook has launched with 10 videos on the foundation’s website and is available to anyone free of charge. All one has to do is register.

Second Chance Network will bring employers together

Another initiative, the Second Chance Network, is coming soon and will have three layers.

“One will be second chance employers who are interested in mentoring other organizations and are fine in being a mouthpiece. They’re the true champions,” said Martin.

“Another layer is going to highlight re-entry hubs (around the nation) that can supply resources, and the third layer that we’re paying the most attention to is speaking with employers to encourage them to look at programs and staffing networks through which they can recruit from directly.”

The foundation, which gets funding from Dave’s Killer Bread company as well as private donors, is dedicated to being an agent of change.

“What’s most important for people to understand is that business has the power to affect true change right now. We don’t have to wait for legislation or nonprofits to get more funding,” says Martin. “A business can decide tomorrow that they will hire one person, and that will make a huge impact and ripple across the country.”

 

S.F.’s Cala restaurant gives second chance to those in reentry

second chance employer

Cala Restaurant, San Francisco

In San Francisco, a city of exceptional eateries, one recently opened restaurant stands apart – and not just for its amazing food but for the fact that it is a second chance employer, making a point of seeking out and hiring formerly incarcerated individuals.

That restaurant, Cala, is the latest and first U.S. venture for celebrity chef Gabriela Camara, who has four restaurants in her native Mexico. And although she wholeheartedly supports targeting this population for her employees, it was her general manager, Emma Rosenbush, who came up with the idea.

Before operating a pop-up restaurant in Mexico City, where she befriended Camara, Rosenbush studied sociology and criminal justice, and worked at the Prison Law Office in Berkeley, Calif. During her time there, she visited all of the California state prisons. And it was that experience which inspired her hiring practices when she got into the restaurant business.

A whole population who can’t get work

“When I had the opportunity to work with Gabriela there was a hiring crunch. No one can afford to live in the city (San Francisco) and work in the service industry, so it’s hard to find good people to work in restaurants,” she says. “And, at the same time, there’s a whole population of people who can’t get a job because they have a record.”

Rosenbush had decided several years earlier that if she ever had an opportunity to hire people with criminal records, she would. And now she has the chance to give them a second chance.

The restaurant opened late last September, and she started the hiring process in the summer by reaching out to former professors and holding meetings with CJCJ (the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice) and Delancey Street.

Rosenbush worked with the San Francisco Probation Department’s Community Assessment Service Center (CASC), where she conducted seminars and was able to interview 40 to 50 applicants.

75 percent of employees have convictions

And among the 33 current employees, 75 percent have convictions.

Although Rosenbush has been able to hire quite a number of formerly incarcerated individuals, it’s been a challenge.

“I wish that I had more support,” she says. “The biggest challenge is that a lot of people I’ve hired are getting support elsewhere like living at Delancey Street or there’s some kind of safety net under them, but I’m not a social service. I’m a business. Another issue is a lot of insecurity. It’s intimidating to go into a new world.”

The restaurant business requires a certain level of knowledge and sophistication, and she says that Cala has diners asking about wine from servers who may have never drunk a glass of wine in their lives.

Doing the right thing by giving second chance

In spite of the challenges, Rosenbush is convinced she’s doing the right thing. “I wouldn’t have done it any other way. The level of loyalty and the sense of family we’re in the process of creating make it all worthwhile. And it’s why I want to go to work everyday,” she says.

What’s she’s looking for in a potential employee above all else is a sense of commitment. “I’m interested in people who are interested in something more than just a paycheck. I don’t care if you don’t know anything about food or wine or cocktails. If you’re committed to showing up every day that counts,” Rosenbush says.

She’s lost many of her earliest employees. But she’s also had some amazing success stories, including a guy who had been living in a halfway house and on his first day of looking for a job had heard that Cala was hiring.

“He came in off the street, and I was having a meeting, but he shook my hand and looked me in the eye. We hired him as a back waiter, and he did so well that we promoted him to server,” she says.

Unfortunately, the man no longer works for the restaurant, because he was able to find a job near his family 250 miles from San Francisco.

Others have graduated from back serving to serving and transitioned into working the bar, but in addition to their own personal success stories, the employees have been part of Cala’s success.

“The restaurant has had great acceptance into the city in part thanks to who we’ve hired. It adds to the experience,” says Rosenbush.

Tips for re-entry job seekers

Rosenbush offers tips for people in re-entry who are looking for a job:

  • Perseverance is very important. If you come back again and again it shows you really want to be there.
  • Look people in the eye. If I interview someone who doesn’t make eye contact that’s the first red flag.

Advice for businesses

She also has advice for restaurants or other business who are committed to hiring employees who were formerly incarcerated:

  • Have a lot of patience with your staff and support them during their the training. You might have to say things three times instead of just once.
  • Be aware of the other life issues that may come up for them.
  • Understand that employing someone and giving them a regular paycheck offers access to stability, and in some cases an opportunity to transition out of halfway housing and into their own living situation. You’re making a big impact on their lives.

 

Call center work offers growing number of opportunities

woman_with_phone_headset_197963Call center work is something that can be a good choice for those in re-entry, since many companies tend to be open to hiring formerly incarcerated individuals for this type of job and many people have already had experience in call centers in a prison or jail setting.

The field also provides a growing number of opportunities, as more and more companies relocate their call centers to the U.S. After years of complaints from unhappy customers who were unable to understand the English of the service reps in call centers located in India and elsewhere, many corporations have decided to invest their resources in creating opportunities here at home.

And many of these companies are offering work-at-home opportunities to some or all of their call center reps. The Work at Home Resource Guide offers an extensive directory of companies that hire employees for call center jobs. It includes the type of rates each one pays, which states they operate in, what type of training they provide, and if there’s a charge for anything.

Another even more extensive list that includes only work-at-home call center jobs but with fewer details, can be found on the Work at Home Moms section of about.com.

Call center jobs vary

Whether on-site or work at home, call center jobs vary in terms of the type of work required. They can be reservation agents for airlines and hotels, order takers, customer service reps, survey conductors, those doing tech support or sales associates selling products or services.

Among necessary skills that call center employees must have are to be detail-oriented, proficient in basic math and writing, sound professional on the telephone, and be able to type and have a basic knowledge of word processing.

Beware of scams

Work-at-home call center employment is ripe for scandal, so be wary. The companies included in the directory mentioned above are legitimate, but do your homework. Any company that requires a registration fee or asks for money for training may be a scam. Some ask applicants to pay for background checks, but only after they have a job offer.

Things to consider

If you’re considering this type of work, there are a few things to consider:

  • Pay varies widely and can be by the hour, minute or call made and in some cases may include a commission or incentive.
  • Bilingual call center agents tend to be paid more. Spanish speakers are especially in high demand, but those who speak languages like French and Chinese are also sought after.
  • There should be no charge for registration or training, but you may not get paid – or paid less than when you begin working – during that period.
  • If you work at home, you’ll need, at the very least, a computer, phone and internet connection.
  • You may be a full-time employee with some or full benefits, or a contractor who works for an outside agency or is self-employed.
  • Some call centers will only hire work-at-home representatives in certain states – or within a certain number of miles from their hiring location.

Like all jobs, call center work requires professionalism, a positive attitude and an ability to get along with people, especially on the phone. It’s just one possibility, but one that those with a record might want to seriously consider. A good telephone presence and telephone selling skills are very desirable to many employers and can lead to other job opportunities in the future.

 

Drive Change food truck biz trains formerly incarcerated youth

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Drive Change members celebrate their selection for the People’s Choice Award and the Vendy Cup at the 2015 Vendy Awards, New York City’s highest honor for mobile vendors.

While the food business often serves up employment opportunities for those in reentry, Drive Change takes the idea one step further.

The New York City nonprofit’s Snow Day food truck sells an interesting menu of maple syrup-themed cuisine with a side of social justice, while at the same time helping formerly incarcerated young people get the training and work experience they so desperately need.

The organization was the inspiration of Jordyn Lexton, who taught at the public high school on New York City’s notorious Riker’s Island prison complex, in which 16-year-olds are considered adults.

“When I found myself on Riker’s Island I was completely blown away by how truly abusive the conditions are,” she says. “My students were leaving with felony convictions rather than juvenile adjudications. When leaving they were met by dead ends, and way too many of my students under different circumstances would have lived crime free.”

Post Riker release opportunities

While at Rikers, Lexton was thinking of business opportunities that could help young Rikers inmates after they’re released.

“There was a culinary arts class on Rikers, and it was one of the only classes where they were happy,” she says. “My own passion for eating, mixed with the realization that the food industry could provide employment and teaching, was where the idea came from.”

Food trucks seemed the best option for her business, because they can provide human connections and raise awareness of injustice inside the system better than restaurants can, she says.

So Lexton spent a year working on a taco truck and researched other food businesses on the side. By the spring of 2014, her organization was up and running and had launched Snowday, its first food truck. Snowday prepares cuisine using ingredients sourced from farms in New York City and beyond.

It caters events and posts its weekly schedule on Twitter. Drive Change also uses the truck as a tool to raise awareness about injustice within the prison system. On days when there’s a rally about reform at Rikers, for example, the organization seeks funding from donors to cover the cost of getting the truck to the event to serve food.

Funding for Drive Change

The money to buy Snowday came from a June 2013 fundraiser at an art gallery that raised about $45,000 from 300 attendees. Those who came promoted the indiegogo campaign that began the next day to their social media circles. That campaign raised another $24,000.

Lexton had built up a large network herself, thanks to her experience in the food truck industry and with criminal justice organizations. She reached out to them, as well as family and friends, to establish an individual giving platform and began to apply for foundation grants.

Snow Day began operations in April 2014, and Drive Change received its first two substantial foundation grants in the fall of 2014. These allowed it to build a kitchen training classroom originally located at the Center for Social Innovation but now in the historic former Pfizer building in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Employees must be between 16 and 25 years of age and treated as an adult in the criminal justice system. Referrals come from other organizations and reentry services. Drive Change received 66 referrals for eight open positions this past spring.

Applicants fill out an application, which Lexton says is a bit challenging and includes an essay. Of the 66 people who were originally referred only 30 completed the application.

Another requirement is that people have stable housing. “It can be a shelter or transitional housing, but knowing where someone is sleeping every night is important for employment,” Lexton says.

When people first hire on, they go through a five-week training period to receive food safety and New York Food Handlers certifications. During training, employees are paid minimum wage but upon graduation begin at $11 per hour.

During the next four to six months, Drive Change employees work in both the prep kitchen and on the truck. They also take classes in social media, marketing, hospitality, money management and small business development to prepare them for future employment or to create businesses of their own.

Although Drive Change is a nonprofit, it’s structured to own a profit LLC. The food truck is a third of its overall operating budget and is close to covering its own costs, according to Lexton.

Model for growth

The organization’s original goal was to operate a fleet of food trucks, but it has developed a different model for growth.

It plans to build a garage, a sort of food truck commissary, where other food truck operators can park their trucks, store goods, buy products and provide facilities for their employees to change clothes. Owners who park their trucks in the garage will be required to hire Drive Change employees. Lexton’s vision is to work with 120 people on 10 to 15 trucks.

And she doesn’t think that will be a problem for several reasons. The fact that New York City food trucks often have trouble finding a space for overnight parking is one of them.

“We’ve figured out by investing in this space, we can actually benefit the businesses of other food trucks in New York City. It will make their operations more efficient, lower their costs on goods and amenities and be good for their bottom line,” she says. ‘They also get the privilege of hiring these young people. It’s very hard for food trucks to find licensed and credentialed employees.”

What Drive Change is doing must be working. On Sept. 12 it won two Vendy Awards, the Oscars of mobile vending for New York City. The organization was honored with the People’s Choice Award and the grand prize Vendy Cup.

“No other vendor in the 11 years of the award has been able to achieve that,” Lexton says.

 

Council of State Governments helps lower employment barriers

The Council of State Governments inspired the Greenville, S.C., Chamber of Commerce to hold the Corporate Leader Engagement Breakfast to discuss the barriers to hiring people with criminal records.

The Council of State Governments inspired Greenville, S.C., Chamber of Commerce’s Corporate Leader Engagement Breakfast in which business leaders and others came together to discuss the barriers to hiring people with criminal records.

To get returning citizens back to work and help reduce recidivism is a monumental task, an effort that takes an entire community to tackle.

Representatives from the public and private sectors ranging from corrections to corporations need to work together to change policies, procedures and, most importantly, attitudes.

And that is beginning to happen in cities across the nation, thanks to the nonprofit The Council of State Governments’ Pathways to Prosperity initiative.

The initiative, part of the National Reentry Resource Center of the CSG Justice Center, seeks to provide a policy and practice framework for states to better address workforce needs and to equip citizens with the skills, knowledge and qualifications needed for the 21st century global economy.

It does this by inspiring other organizations to hold events that bring people together to make change in the hiring arena and eradicate the employment barriers that exist for formerly incarcerated individuals.

CSG’s effort was launched last summer at the White House and has continued across the nation with a series of events including, most recently, in Greenville, S.C.; Detroit; and Atlanta.

In May, the Greenville, S.C., Chamber of Commerce sponsored a Corporate Leader Engagement Breakfast attended by 30 employers, as well as community leaders, policymakers and corrections officials. They met to discuss the barriers to hiring people with criminal records and determine the best way to overcome them.

“Employers are looking to hire folks who are loyal, drug free and produce quality work,” said Robyn Knox, planning director at Southern Weaving Company, a Greenville business that hires people with criminal records, and one of the speakers at the event.

“We would not be in business today if these folks were not good workers,” said Knox, who went on to note that criminal records don’t affect staff retention. There is “no statistical difference in turnover,” she said, between her company’s employees who have records and its employees who don’t.

In Detroit, another event with a similar purpose was held during the same month, hosted in that city by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with support from the Detroit Public Safety Foundation.

Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black, gave the keynote address, urging businesses to adopt “ban the box” policies.

The author and activist cited Tim Hortons, Home Depot, and Target as examples of companies that have adopted fair hiring policies. By providing job opportunities for people with criminal records, she said, “these companies are not just banning the box, they are making a serious effort to reshape the reentry landscape moving forward.”

Meanwhile, the Southern Regional Summit on Fair Hiring, which took place on May 18 in Atlanta, brought together more than 100 policymakers, business representatives and community service providers from seven southern states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee – to discuss creating employment opportunities for adults with criminal records.

The event was hosted by the National H.I.R.E. Network of the Legal Action Center, with support from the National Reentry Resource Center.

These events are part of the growing conversation across the country between business leaders and policymakers who are working to improve employment outcomes for individuals with criminal records.

It can be a win-win situation, with returning citizens eager to enter the job market and employers gaining access to a frequently overlooked talent pool in a tightening job market.

To learn how you can hold a similar event in your area contact the Justice Center of The Council of State Governments.

 

New guide helps manufacturers create apprenticeship programs

ApprenticeshipProgramManualCoverU.S. Manufacturers are facing a serious shortage of skilled workers. Many applicants just don’t seem to have the skills necessary to produce the increasingly sophisticated products that American factories are creating.

While some companies are teaming up with community colleges and other partners to create training and apprenticeship programs, there seems to be far too few of them

Three major corporations – Dow, Alcoa and Siemens – have decided to help solve the problem by joining forces to create a coalition to build regional apprenticeship models that bring together employers and community colleges.

And together with The Manufacturing Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, they’ve also published the Employer’s Playbook for Building an Apprenticeship Program to teach other companies how to do it themselves.

This 115-page book serves as a how-to guide that companies of any size can use to help build a workforce-ready talent pipeline in communities across the country.

Readers are taken step by step through the process of establishing an apprenticeship program. The nine chapters cover everything from workforce planning and establishing public-private partnerships to selecting apprenticeship program participants and transitioning apprentices into permanent employment.

The book includes an extensive array of templates, tools, project plans and worksheets and tons of tips and advice that are useful to any company that might be interested in creating an apprenticeship program of their own. There are also links to a wide range of other resources that include everything from the Department of Labor and the National Governor’s Association to the National Association of Workforce Boards.

The playbook will also serve as an important resource for manufacturers and their partners who are interested in the U.S. Department of Labor’s American Apprenticeship Grants competition that is now open for applications.

These grants – up to $100 million in total – will be given to public-private partnerships that will include a combination of manufacturers as well as community colleges, nonprofits, unions and training organizations. The grants are being financed by the fees that employers pay to hire foreign workers to come work in the U.S. under the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program.

The goals of the grant competition are to:

  • Expand apprenticeship programs into high growth industries and occupations, especially those for which foreign workers on H-1B visas are hired.
  • Use apprenticeships to create new career pathways.
  • Offer more apprenticeship opportunities to job seekers and workers, especially those from groups that are underrepresented in traditional apprenticeship programs.

And with all the new training programs that will result from these grants, more Americans – including hopefully some who were formerly incarcerated – will be claiming some of those jobs currently being held by H-1B workers. At least that appears to be the goal.