Highlighting soft skills can be key to getting a job

soft skillsSoft skills – the personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with others – may be just as important to performing and keeping a job as the technical or job performance related skills for which people are hired.

And many employers agree. In a survey of 2,138 hiring managers and human resource professionals conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder in 2014, 77% of employers felt that soft skills are just as important as hard skills.

“When companies are assessing job candidates, they’re looking for the best of both worlds: someone who is not only proficient in a particular function, but also has the right personality,” said Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder.

“Along with responsibilities, it’s important to highlight soft skills that can give employers an idea of how quickly you can adapt and solve problems, whether you can be relied on to follow through, and how effectively you can lead and motivate others.”

Top 10 soft skills that employers consider when evaluating a job candidate

The top 10 most popular soft skills companies say they look for when hiring are that the candidate:

  • has a strong work ethic – 73 percent
  • is dependable – 73 percent
  • has a positive attitude – 72 percent
  • is self-motivated – 66 percent
  • is team-oriented – 60 percent
  • is organized, can manage multiple priorities – 57 percent
  • works well under pressure – 57 percent
  • is an effective communicator – 56 percent
  • is flexible – 51 percent
  • is confident – 46 percent

If you want to know more about the importance of soft skills, just ask Frederick H. Wentz. He’s an expert on the subject and wrote two books used for training people so that they can recognize and develop their soft skills.

Wentz became aware of the need during his years working in the restaurant industry. “I hired a lot of entry level employees, and many came from communities that lacked exposure to soft skills,” he says.

He also worked training people in reentry and noticed that people who have been out of the workforce for a long time had the same problem.

“The biggest challenges (to those in reentry) are making decisions and problem solving. When they’re incarcerated all their decisions are being made by someone else,” he says. “Communication is another difficulty for them. In prison communication is just one way.”

Wentz goes on to say that, “The behaviors that people need to survive in prison are being tough and being intimating, and these are not going to work on the job.”

Four types of soft skills

Instead they need to develop soft skills. Soft skills can be one of four different types, related to:

  • Communication
  • Problem solving
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Personal attributes

As specific examples, Wentz mentions, among other things, being:

  • Able to get along with others
  • Positive
  • Able to control emotions
  • Conscientious
  • Friendly
  • Able to follow instructions

In his book, Soft Skills Training: A Workbook to Develop Skills for Employment, Wentz alternates articles and stories about success with exercises that make students think about the importance of soft skills.

Some examples of the questions from the exercises in the book:

  • What do most entry-level workers lack?
  • In what areas do entry-level employees need the most improvement?
  • Why is it important to reach out and help others while at work?
  • When you do not understand something, what are three positive consequences of asking a question?
  • List five personal qualities you must display on every job.
  • How did Michael Jordan visualize and how did it help him? Give an example of how it can help you.

Job developers who work with those in reentry may find this book a useful tool.

And those looking for work might want to add references to their soft skills in their resume or JIST card. Including things like “meets all deadlines,” “works well in a team environment” and “communicates effectively” will highlight your proficiency in the soft skill arena.

Because employers are convinced of the importance of these skills, make sure you let them know you have them.

 

Brooklyn-based Refoundry trains ex-offenders to create home furnishings out of discarded materials

Refoundry

Refoundry participant Dexter Nurse; Refoundry entreprenuers Gene Manigo/Kambui, Custom Craft, and James L Eleby Jr., Eleby Designs. (Photo by Christina Maida.)

Although there are other programs that teach formerly incarcerated individuals entrepreneurial skills, Refoundry takes a slightly different approach. This Brooklyn-based not-for-profit has trained its pilot project participants to create home furnishings out of discarded materials and learn how to sell them.

Although they may have felt discarded by society, participants become confident that they, like the furniture they create, have value and purpose.

“Everybody’s got creativity, and working with our hands is one of the things that define us as human beings. Building things is in our DNA,” says Tommy Safian, the organization’s co-founder and executive director.

“When participants are giving discarded material new value they feel like they’re giving themselves new value as well. It’s very personal. When they send these things out into the world and people who may have formerly looked down on them purchase and bring them into their homes, it makes our participants feel valued.”

Formerly incarcerated individuals display incredible talent

“We’re providing opportunities. A lot of people coming out of prison have an incredible amount of talent,” he says. And Refoundry’s pilot project has taken five of those people, taught them woodworking and entrepreneurial skills.

It may be a not-for-profit, but Safian, who previously had a business collecting furniture from the trash in L.A., refurbishing and selling it, runs Refoundry like a business. He has high expectations of the participants and funnels the profits made from the furniture sold by them back into their training.

Safian doesn’t recruit participants straight out of prison but rather finds those who are already being served by reentry organizations and set up in programs, including the anger management and addiction counseling programs required by the state of New York.

“We’re looking for people who are ambitious, who understand their role, who are willing to learn and who take personal and professional responsibility,” he says.

For the first nine months participants learn how to create furniture from discarded materials and are taught the customer service and entrepreneurial skills needed to sell the pieces they create at the weekly Brooklyn Flea (flea market).

Once trained, participants may go out and start their own business, which four of those in the organization’s pilot project have already done.

Building community

Safian tells a story that exemplifies what Refoundry is trying to achieve. One participant who sold a table to a couple at the flea market had been in prison for 30 years for murder. When he delivered the piece, the customers invited him and his wife to dinner to christen the table.

“Our model is designed to make those types of connections and open up the space so that people can meet on common ground and recognize each other as individuals,” he says.

“In our program the transaction happens hand-to-hand and face-to-face. People have stereotypical and denigrating opinions of each other, but within the space of that transaction, they develop empathy, understanding and common values, and these develop community.”

Refoundry plans expansion

Refoundry now takes up a unit at the Brooklyn Navy Yard but plans to expand by adding more units and possible satellite locations. Safian also said that organizations in 12 states are interested in bringing the model to their communities.

The organization is currently establishing a campus at the Navy Yard, which is expected be ready by the end of the year. It will have wrap around services and a classroom. Columbia Business School will teach financial literacy, the School of Visual Arts will provide design and Pratt Institute will teach web design. Community partner Shake Shack will provide hospitality training and offer participants short-term “Internships” at one of its outlets.

Because he realizes that not everyone has the skills or desire to run their own business, Safian also plans to train people in bookkeeping and sales and marketing so that they can be placed in jobs in Refoundry’s partner organizations. These skills will also help those who launch their own enterprises.

Embrace your story

Whether Refoundry participants start their own business or work for someone else, however, Safian urges them to share their story.

“We encourage our participants to embrace their story and use that in marketing their pieces. There’s a huge amount of talent in New York, and what distinguishes them is the story that they tell,” he says

“Embracing your story with a narrative that’s positive for them and has meaning for others is what’s going to help those coming out of prison find a job.”

 

Why ex-offenders should consider entering an apprenticeship program

apprenticeshipApprenticeships not only tend to be ex-offender friendly offering second chance employment, but they are also an excellent way to learn a set of skills that are in high demand among employers. And if you’re seriously determined to find a job, entering an apprenticeship may be the way to go.

In fact, there are statistics to back that up. Human resource consulting firm ManpowerGroup, in its 2016 Talent Shortage Survey, found that of more than 42,000 employers surveyed worldwide, 40 percent are finding difficulty filling job openings, the highest number since 2007. And for the fifth straight year, the hardest jobs to fill are skilled trades.

Top 10 jobs in terms of talent shortage
  1. Skilled trades
  2. IT staff
  3. Sales representatives
  4. Engineers
  5. Technicians
  6. Drivers
  7. Accounting and finance staff
  8. Management executives
  9. Machine operators
  10. Office staff

This fact, if nothing else, should encourage those leaving jail or prison to consider a career in the trades. But there are also other reasons, most notably that:

  • 91% of those completing an apprenticeship program gain employment.
  • The average starting wage for trade union jobs is above $60,000 per year.

Apprenticeship programs can appeal to those with a variety of skills and interests and be for jobs with titles that range from boilermaker or carpenter to meat cutter or sheet metal worker.

Although the programs may last from one to six years, the average length of an apprenticeship is four years. They combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction, during which participants may learn math, drafting, how to read blueprints and other skills necessary to perform a particular job. Apprentices are paid a wage – which usually starts at 35 percent to 50 percent of a full-time union job for that industry – and receive regular pay increases during the duration of the program.

How to find an apprenticeship program

There are hundreds of apprenticeship programs across the U.S., and to find out more about those in your area, you can visit your local American Job Center or search the Internet using search words like “union apprenticeship directory.”

The results that will come up may include directories of specific trade union groups, as well as directories put together by state government agencies. Here are a few examples:

California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Apprenticeship Standards

Indiana union construction industry

Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Program

Massachusetts building trade

Minnesota building and construction apprenticeship programs

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services apprenticeship directory

Washington Building Trades apprenticeship programs

The U.S. Department of Labor maintains a list of links to all state and U.S. territory programs.

Once you decide what type of trade you might be interested in, contact your local American Job Center or a specific union office or training center in your area for the details on what to do next. Taking that first step may lead you to a new career – and a new life beyond bars.

 

Together We Bake cooks up recipe for reentry success

Together We Bake

Together We Bake participants create chocolate chip cookies to sell at Whole Foods, a farmers market and other places.

Alexandria, Va., nonprofit Together We Bake takes women who need a second chance and turns them into job ready candidates.

Its recipe: combine lessons in making chocolate chip cookies, granola and other goodies with experience doing inventory and making deliveries. Add a bit of confidence building and employment counseling. And provide ServSafe training, so participants graduate with a nationally recognized certification.

The program began in 2012 after former social worker Stephanie Wright and her running buddy, Tricia Sabatani, who previously worked with seniors and had a home-baked cookie business, discussed a variety of ventures and settled on Together We Bake.

Why they do what they do

“We wanted to help other people and started looking at our community, asking what was missing, what services were not being provided by the government or other organizations,” says Wright. “We quickly realized that job training was one of them.”

Over the past four years, the mostly previously incarcerated women have experienced an employment rate of 60% and even more impressive recidivism rate of just 6%.

Participants range in age from 22 to mid-60s, but the average age is about 40.

Together We Bake offers three classes each year, with 10 to 12 women in each class. The program takes place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. There are no strict requirements to participate.

“There’s no type of educational requirement, and a criminal background doesn’t matter,” says Wright. “We’re looking for them to make a commitment to the program and be wiling to do some hard work and some self work. They also must be willing to change their path and stay on a positive path.”

The way Together We Bake works

At the beginning of the day the women share something that’s empowering to them in a sort of confidence building exercise before the work begins. Participants work on teams. The business team does inventory, makes deliveries or whatever else is required at any particular time. When they deliver to Whole Foods, one of Together We Bake’s biggest accounts, the women get to stock the shelves and talk to the grocery manager.

The rest of the participants are in the kitchen on the baking team, the cleaning team and the prep team. After about two or three hours of work, the women participate in groups emphasizing empowerment, life skills, communications, goal setting and anger management.

The empowerment group is based on the Houses of Healing and Beyond Trauma curriculums.

“These are great resources that cover the subjects that we needed,” Wright says. “We’ve made it our own and picked the things that work for us. The woman who runs the empowerment groups is one of our graduates and has built some things into the program that she thinks are important from her own experiences being incarcerated.”

Together We Bake participants also take the National Restaurant Association Foundation’s ServSafe Food Safety Training Program, so they can be certified to do food service work.

Outside professionals conduct a two-session financial literacy group, in which the women learn budgeting and banking. They also pull their credit scores and practice making phone calls to creditors to explain their situation in order to boost their confidence so they will be able to rebuild their credit.

In addition, participants work with volunteers in the community selling the products they make at the local farmers market.

High completion rate 

The program’s completion rate is 83 percent, and when people drop out it’s for serious reasons, according to Wright.

“One of the participants got pregnant and was really sick. Another’s son got arrested, and she needed to stay home and take care of his child. We only terminated one person from the program because of issues and it was an attitude issue,” she says.

In addition to the training and education, Together We Bake participants are matched with local job counselor volunteers, who work one on one with the women to help them develop a resume, learn interviewing skills and practice completing online applications.

“It gives them extra support and helps them when they feel rejected because things don’t go their way,” Wright says.

 

Defy Ventures expands CEO of Your New Life program

Entrepreneurs-in-Training at California State Prison-Solano in Vacaville, Calif.

Entrepreneurs-in-Training at California State Prison-Solano in Vacaville, Calif.

Defy Ventures, a New York City-headquartered nonprofit that provides entrepreneurship, employment and character training to people in re-entry, is expanding its new initiative, CEO of Your New Life.

The program, which began last summer, takes the organization’s work into prisons and jails, working with incarcerated men and women to provide the knowledge and skills that will help ensure their re-entry will be more successful and less traumatic than it would be without them.

Launched in California State Prison-Solano in Vacaville, Calif., and the San Francisco County Jail in San Bruno, Calif., in July, CEO of Your Own Life also operates in Greene Correctional Facility in Coxsackie, NY, and Wallkill Correctional Facility in Wallkill, NY. Defy also plans to launch the program in New Jersey’s Essex County jail system.

Here’s how it works. Forget the label inmate, prisoner or whatever. A participant is known as an Entrepreneur-in-Training (EIT), and the instruction has been created as a 10-step series designed to be administered over a 10-week period, although it could vary depending on the institution. Ideally, there will be two video-recorded courses with three hours of instruction time four days per week.

EITs also keep a Defy Journal in which they complete assignments and reflect on their thoughts and self-discoveries as they progress through the program.

The curriculum focuses on job readiness, entrepreneurship, tech basics, personal finance, etiquette, character development and re-entry planning. The faculty who have created the videos include formerly incarcerated individuals, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, Harvard and Stanford professors, and top career coaches, as well as character development experts.

In addition to the instruction, Defy hosts a couple of events per cohort within each facility where it operates CEO of Your New Life. These usually include a business night when it brings in professionals to do interviews and help with resumes, as well as a business pitch competition for those who are interested in starting their own businesses upon release.

One of these competitions took place at the California State Prison-Solano on December 17, with the top five finalists receiving prizes of between $100 and $500 that they will be able to collect upon release.

Overall, successful participants are expected to experience one or more of three likely outcomes. They will be able to:

  • gain the confidence, learn goal setting and create a vision to run their own business and secure financing to make it happen.
  • receive the assistance, coaching and training they need to create resumes, develop interview and communication skills, and effectively use email to secure meaningful employment.
  • transform themselves through personal growth in areas that include character development, parenting, self-discipline, relationships, and dealing with guilt and shame.

After release, participants can continue involvement with Defy Ventures by contacting the organization within seven days of leaving prison or jail. By doing so, they can take advantage of employment resources and further assistance in launching their new lives.

But those just coming out or prison or jail aren’t the only ones who can take advantage of what Defy has to offer. Anyone with previous criminal justice involvement may apply for a free five-month scholarship to participate in the organization’s program, which is dedicated to helping those with various levels of experience and education.

Defy’s post-release employment program offers three tiers of service, depending on the need of the individual:

  1. Tier One is for those who have education and previous work experience. It is known as guided self-help and provides job leads and referrals to other agencies and a weekly review of the participant’s progress.
  2. Tier Two offers short-term support with group or one-on-one counseling for those with barriers to employment, whether a low level of education or lack of sufficient work history. They receive job readiness and retention skills training and vocational counseling.
  3. Tier Three provides long-term support with one-on-one intervention and the services offered in Tier Two, as well as job placement resources.

 

Maritime industry offers opportunities to ex-offenders

The welding program at Seattle's Harbor Island Training Center is a joint venture between Vigor Industrial and South Seattle Community College.

The welding program at Seattle’s Harbor Island Training Center is a joint venture between Vigor Industrial and South Seattle Community College.

Formerly incarcerated job seekers may want to check out jobs in the maritime trades, and a new maritime painting class in the San Francisco Bay Area is just one example of some of the opportunities that exist.

A joint venture between the College of Alameda and Bay Ship & Yacht, the program is seeking out those on probation, formerly homeless individuals and veterans to fill the first four-week class, which will take place in September. And those who do well may have a job offer at the end.

“This is a pilot class, and ideally we want to offer it on a regular basis,” said Chris Rochette, who helped develop the program and serves as training manager at Bay Ship & Yacht Co., a full service shipyard. “We want this to coincide with our hiring cycle, so we would offer one class in the winter and one in the fall.”

There is no prerequisite to apply. “They’re supposed to go from zero experience to us hiring them,” he said. Alameda College instructors will teach most of the classes, and Bay Ship & Yacht employees will assist in the hands-on instruction.

“Those employees can get a good feel for the people in the class, and if they do well, the goal is for us to hire them. We are a second-chance employer, and this offers a really good opportunity for people to get back on their feet.”

The program is modeled after Seattle’s Harbor Island Training Center, which, like the Alameda program, is a joint venture between a shipbuilder, Vigor Industrial, and an educational institution, South Seattle Community College.

Harbor Island offers the two-quarter, 5-1/2-month Welding Intensive for Maritime & Manufacturing Environments program that is is taught onsite by industry professionals at Vigor’s shipyards.

“The purpose of this program is to keep this vital industry alive when many members of the workforce are aging out,” said Kevin Maloney director of communications for South Seattle College. “It gives students the marketable skills they need to earn a living wage.” The average salary for a graduate of the program is just over $45,000 per year.

Graduates have been hired by Vigor, but the skills they learn are applicable to jobs at any shipyard anywhere.

Vigor Industrial has a similar joint venture with Portland Community College, which opened its new Swan Island Trades Center last September. The welding classes are taught at the Vigor Industrial Welding Training Center at its Swan Island Ship Repair Yard.

East Coast programs

On the opposite end of the country, the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association sponsors a six-week Marine Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program that teaches a variety of entry-level skills, including painting, varnishing, rigging, forklift operation and shrink wrapping. These skills prepare graduates to be hired by area yacht builders and others.

As part of the program, which is held twice a year, students participate in a six-day job shadow with a local employer in an area of work that they are interested in.

Participants, who must be Rhode Island residents, attend sessions at various places throughout the state, including venues in Newport, Bristol and Portsmouth. The program is free to students, and those who don’t miss any days will receive $100 per week in compensation.

The Marine Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program is funded through the Governor’s Workforce Board Rhode Island and has a 90% job placement rate for its graduates.

Another opportunity to get involved in maritime trades is a series of apprenticeship programs offered by Tidewater Community College and local maritime businesses in Suffolk, Va. These provide training for such positions as dock master, rigger, ship fitter, welder, electrician and painter. Participants take classes at the college and can earn an associate degree, in addition to gaining employment in the maritime industry.

The apprenticeship section of the Tidewater Community College’s website includes a list of companies that sponsor the apprenticeship programs. They range from BAE Systems and CDI Marine to Norfolk Naval Shipyard and Newport News Shipbuilding.

If you are interested in considering employment in the maritime industries, learning more about the programs in this article may be a good place to begin your search.

 

RAND Corp. study calls for greater attention to inmate education

classroom-381900_640In its “How Effective is Correctional Education, and Where do We Go From Here?” research report, the RAND Corp. evaluated the content, funding and future of education programs at correctional facilities across the U.S.

Through funding from the Second Chance Act of 2007, the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice engaged RAND Corp. to research the status of correctional education. The results, laid out in this thought-provoking report released last year, call for more attention and research to be dedicated to this crucial issue.

With 40% of the 700,000 people who are released from federal and state prisons each year reincarcerated within three years, something has to be done – and that something should start with education and vocational programs that will help give them the skills they need to gain employment and stay out of prison, the study contends.

RAND researchers looked at four types of education: instruction in such basic skills as reading, writing and arithmetic; high school education to prepare for the GED; vocational education; and college level classes that could lead to an A.A. or B.A. degree. One requirement to be considered was that the education program take place – at least in part – within a correctional facility.

In evaluating 58 previous empirical research studies – selected from 1,112 conducted between 1980 and 2011 – the RAND researchers discovered that “on average, inmates who participated in correctional education programs had a 43% lower odds of recidivating than inmates who did not.”

They also found that “the odds of obtaining employment post-release among inmates who participated in correctional education (either academic or vocational/career and technical education programs) were 13% higher than the odds for those who did not.”

The study included the RAND Correctional Education Survey, a web-based survey of correctional education directors in all 50 states conducted in July 2013. Representatives of 46 out of the 50 states responded.

The survey revealed that:

  • Most states provide basic education, vocational educational/CTE programs and GED courses.
  • 32 states provide secondary and post-secondary education.
  • 24 states have a mandatory education participation requirement for those without a high school diploma or GED.

In spite of the critical need for computer skills to get work these days, many states’ correctional facilities are lacking in computer training:

  • 39 states offer desktop computers and 17 states laptops for use for instructional purposes.
  • 24 states offer Microsoft Office certification.
  • 26 states prevent inmate students from access to Internet technology.

After studying data and the educational situations in 46 states, the RAND Corp. came up with a series of recommendations that include:

  • Determine what works and what doesn’t work so that “policymakers and state correctional education directors can make informed trade-offs in budget discussions.”
  • Encourage governments and nonprofits to fund “evaluations of programs that illustrate different educational instructional models, that are trying innovative strategies to implement technology and leverage distance learning in the classroom, and are analyzing what lessons from the larger literature on adult education may be applied to correctional education.“
  • “Conduct new research on instructional quality in correctional education settings and on ways to leverage computer technology to enhance instruction.”
  • “Conduct a summit at the state and federal levels with private industry about what opportunities are available to formerly incarcerated individuals and what skills will be needed in the future.”

For more information about the nonprofit RAND Corp. and the research it does visit its website.

 

Texas nonprofit hires ex-offenders to build houses for veterans

Maria Pic

Maria Schneider, Terra Shelter, Inc.

Maria Schneider is out to change the construction industry in Dallas, Texas, one ex-offender at time. Her way to do this: By building a nonprofit that sells rehabbed homes to veterans at below market rate prices and hires employees who were formerly incarcerated.

Her original plan was to rehab houses, but how she decided to hire formerly incarcerated workers came about in a rather serendipitous way.

Trained as an electrical engineer and a biomedical engineer, Schneider got started in construction in her late 20s. The only house she could afford to buy needed a lot of work, and she did it in her spare time. She loved the process and later launched a construction company.

“I had a residential custom building business in the mid 2000s. It was in Austin, and there was an economic boom there,” she says. “The only people I could find to work were ex-offenders, and I got to know them really well and started understanding some of the issues involved in reentry.”

These issues ranged from a lack of a place to live and bad relationships with family members to substance abuse and access to reliable transportation. Another issue was not having a way to make money, which Schneider solved by hiring them.

It wasn’t easy though. “You really have to start from scratch and teach them a lot of things besides the job. You have to teach them a lot of life skills and tell them what to do,” she says.

“But ex-offenders are excluded by a lot of places automatically, so if someone doesn’t include them they’re not going to end up with jobs. A lot of programs provide job training but not jobs. You have to provide them not just with the job training but a job that goes along with it, so they’ll have some income while they’re developing skills and be able to show some experience on their resume.”

After starting to build homes again and forming a nonprofit, Terra Shelter, Inc., Schneider remembered those workers she had once hired and wanted to create jobs for others like them. And she has. In fact, she has made it her mission to do so.

Although Schneider is just, as she says, starting out, her organization has already rehabbed five homes built in the 1920s and 1930s – most of which had to be completely gutted – and located in some of the worst neighborhoods in the city of Dallas.

She’s teamed up with the Tarrant County Housing Partnership. The organization works with several banks, which are required by the government to donate some of the foreclosed homes they receive to nonprofits as part of an anti-blight effort.

The organization began about a year and a half ago, when it received donated houses that were in pretty bad shape. “While our focus was on providing affordable housing, in the process I decided that what I really wanted to do was to work with ex-offenders and teach them the skills they needed to do the job,” she says.

Although working with employees who have been incarcerated has more than its share of challenges, Schneider has found many of them to be very loyal and hard working.

Up until now, she has hired people rather randomly. In the rough and tumble neighborhood of southeast Dallas where her nonprofit works rehabbing houses, she’s often approached by ex-offenders looking for work.

After dealing with the unreliability of some of the workers she hired this way, Schneider decided this recruitment method was unsustainable and has partnered with the Oasis Center, a nonprofit organization providing reentry services and mentoring that help formerly incarcerated individuals get a new start.

In the meantime, her site supervisor is an ex-offender, and Schneider tries to hire as many formerly incarcerated individuals as possible. If she can’t, however, she turns to veterans. Her plumber and electricians fall into this category.

The houses she’s rehabbed have been a really good learning experience, but as a sustainability consultant, Schneider is passionate about green building and would like to get into new home construction. “Trying to build green and affordable is kind of radical here in Texas,” she says.

But no doubt so is hiring ex-offenders. And both are challenges she’s determined to take on.

 

Is a college degree necessary to get a good job?

MP900314164Many college grads are deep in debt with college loans these days. You’ve heard the news. They can’t find a job. Living at home. Some have given up and don’t know what to do.

Which brings up the question: Is a college education really necessary? Can you get a good job without it?

Although there are a lot of conflicting opinions, the answer is basically yes, you can get a good job without a college education. In fact for those in reentry, it might be better to look toward an apprenticeship, certificate program or other specialized training that will lead to a specific job.

High dropout rates, excessive debt

Going the college route, in fact, can be a gamble, with the chances of graduation not guaranteed. According to the Institute of Education Sciences of the National Center for Education Statistics, (part of the U.S. Department of Education), only 59% of first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began their college education in 2006 had graduated by 2012.

And on top of that, 71% of those who did graduate from four-year colleges in 2012 carried student debt, according to the Project on Student Debt of the Oakland, Calif.-based Institute for College Access & Success. The average debt level for graduates was $29,400, a 25% increase over the amount of debt graduates carried in 2008.

To make matters worse, according to a 2014 Accenture college graduate employment survey, 41% of recent college graduates are earning $25,000 or less.

Although even with a degree many recent college grads can’t find work, the unemployment situation may ease a bit, if job creation forecasts are any indication.

Job creation forecasts show hope

In “Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020,” a study released by the Center on Education and the Workforce of Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute, the U.S. economy will grow to 165 million jobs by 2020. This is a nearly 18% increase over the number in 2012.

During this time period there will be 55 million job openings as a result of baby boomers retiring and the creation of new positions.

Of the upcoming job openings:

36% will not require any education beyond high school

35% will require at least a bachelor’s degree

30% will require an associate’s degree or some college

If the total number of jobs are broken down by occupation, these are the ones in which workers are least likely to need a college degree. The numbers are the percentages of the total number of jobs that only will require a high school diploma or less.

  • Health care support: 42%
  • Transportation and utilities services: 45%
  • Manufacturing 47%
  • Leisure and hospitality: 50%
  • Food and personal services: 57%
  • Construction: 63%
  • Natural resources: 66%
  • Blue collar trades: 66%

No college degree required for these good jobs

Among some of the specific jobs that only require a high school diploma – according to analysis by Careerbuilder.com that was included in an August Forbes.com website article – are:

  • Transportation, storage and distributions managers. Median hourly pay: $39.27
  • Gaming managers. Median hourly pay: $31.99
  • Real estate broker. Median hourly pay: $29.48
  • Construction and extraction worker supervisor. Median hourly pay: $29.20
  • Legal support workers. Median hourly pay: $26.97
  • Postal service mail carriers. Median hourly pay: $26.75

Although these jobs don’t formally require more than a high school diploma, some jobs do require on-the-job training or participation in an apprenticeship program. The advantage is that the training is a part of paid employment, unlike a college or even a community college education. And the effort will often result in steady, well paying jobs that, for the most part, are expected to remain in demand.

Visit your nearest American Job Center to find out more about the training and apprenticeship programs your area.

 

Back on Track LA receives Second Chance Act funding

Graphic courtesy Johnson County Justice Center, Iowa City, Iowa.

Graphic courtesy Johnson County Justice Center, Iowa City, Iowa.

The California Attorney General’s Office has been awarded nearly $750,000 in federal grant funds for Back on Track LA, a recidivism reduction pilot program. The program is one of only four in the nation to receive the funding, granted through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Second Chance Act.

Back on Track LA, being developed by the California Department of Justice, has been designed to deliver critical educational and comprehensive re-entry services pre- and post-release.

It will build on the L.A. Sheriff Department’s Education Based Incarceration Program by working in partnership with several educational institutions. One of these, the Five Keys Charter School – established in 2003 in San Francisco as the nation’s first charter school to operate within a county jail and now with a site in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department – will be geared towards those without a high-school diploma or GED.

Others, Los Angeles Mission College and Los Angeles Trade-Technical College in the Los Angeles Community College District and College of the Canyons in the Santa Anita Community College District, will provide higher education opportunities that include prerequisites for community college degrees, credentials and certificates.

Among other partners are the Ford Foundation, Rosenberg Foundation, California Community Foundation, California Wellness Foundation and the California Endowment.

Program participants – non-serious, non-violent and non-sexual crime offenders between 18 and 30 years old who are incarcerated in the LASD jail system – will be enrolled in the Back on Track LA pilot program for 24 to 30 months. Twelve to18 of these months will be while they are in custody and 12 months while out of custody.

“As the largest Probation Department in the nation, we are pleased to partner in the Back on Track LA program which will allow us to have further impact on the transition of inmates back in to the community by offering case management services directly inside the custody setting such as cognitive behavioral therapy and other mental health services,” said L.A.’s Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers when the announcement was made late last month. “Upon release, the probation team will also be able to assist in linking inmates to additional services in the community.”

The Second Chance Act, signed into law in 2008, provides funds to improve outcomes for those previously incarcerated as they reintegrate into their communities. Through a competitive grant process, this legislation authorizes federal grants to government and nonprofit agencies working to reduce recidivism by those returning to local communities from prison, jails and juvenile facilities.

Back on Track LA follows in the footsteps of a San Francisco program with the same name created in 2005 by former San Francisco District Attorney and current California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Developed for certain low-level, non-violent drug offenders, it reduced recidivism among its graduates to less than 10 percent over a two-year period.

In November 2013, Attorney General Harris also established the California Division of Recidivism Reduction and Re-Entry, an office designed to curb recidivism in the state by partnering with counties and district attorneys on best practices and policy initiatives.

The new division is tasked with the development of a statewide definition of recidivism, identifying grants to fund the creation and expansion of innovative anti-recidivism programs and using technology to facilitate more effective data analysis and recidivism metrics.