Richard Bronson created job search engine 70millionjobs.com to help ex-offenders find employment

70millionjobs.com

Richard Bronson

If entrepreneur Richard Bronson had his way, every American with a criminal record would be employed. And he’s created a job search engine to help achieve that goal.

He calls his company 70millionjobs.com, because that’s how many people he says have a criminal record. And one of those people is Bronson himself.

Bronson served 22 months in a federal prison camp for securities fraud committed while running Biltmore Securities, a company he cofounded. Earlier in his career he gained experience working for Stratton Oakmont. Yes, that’s the brokerage firm immortalized in the film, The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Once out of prison he faced what he calls the “daunting task of getting my life back together.” And he knew it wouldn’t be easy. “As long as there’s the Internet, people can find out everything about you. Once you commit a crime, you have a life-long sentence,” he says.

After Bronson got out of prison, he worked for Defy Ventures for a while but left because he wanted to be involved in something scalable. And his idea of something scalable became 70millionjobs.com

“I decided that this huge population should have the same tools for looking for a job that other people without a record have – an indeed.com for ex-offenders,” he says.

“That was my original vision. I felt that the effort was crying out for a for-profit venture, because it could scale. If you have a website you can engage with 10,000 people without it costing too much.”

Bronson formed partnership with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

He launched his business early last year and concentrated on New York, but when Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti approached him to create a partnership, he switched his efforts to L.A.

They launched a three-month pilot project on April 3 that allows Los Angeles employers to post an unlimited number of jobs free of charge. Bronson believes that if his company does a good job and delivers a steady stream of applicants, the companies that list with 70millionjobs.com will be willing to pay after the pilot project period is over.

He’s publicizing the site through community-based organizations that provide job readiness programs, which means those applying for employment on 70millionjobs.com are serious about wanting to work.

Applicants will use video resumes to highlight their personalities

Because traditional resumes can be problematical for those in reentry, Bronson is working on creating video resumes for his applicants, which he feels would work better.

“Many of them have no job experience at all. And no one would want to hire them,” he says. “But if you meet them in person, they’re funny, bright and charming people who would be good to come to work at your company.”

Bronson has also created a unique way for his applicants to actually apply for the jobs posted on 70millionjobs.com.

“Our applicants typically don’t have a laptop and a connection to the Internet. But they all, on the other hand, have smart phones. We will be notifying them by SMS alert (text messaging) anytime there’s a new job that might be suitable for their interests. And with one touch, they can apply for that job,” he explains.

Although Bronson is concentrating his efforts on Los Angeles at the moment, he hopes to add more employers in New York and expand to the San Francisco Bay Area by the end of this year.

“L.A. has the largest population of incarcerated people and people with records. It’s the big league,” he says. “We feel that if things go well in Los Angeles, it will give us the entrée to other cities as well and serve as a template for our expansion.“

 

Career Online High School offers education at local libraries

libraries

Los Angeles Public Library held a graduation ceremony for its first Career Online High School Class early this year. It was officiated by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Librarian John F. Szabo, Board of Library Commissioners President Bich Ngoc Cao and State Librarian of California Greg Lucas.

 

Although libraries are continually reinventing themselves to meet the needs of the 21st century, serving as a high school has to be one of the most unique ideas yet.

As part of the first program of its type anywhere, a growing number of libraries across the U.S. are offering their patrons a chance to earn a high school diploma.

It’s called Career Online High School and combines a high school education – culminating in a diploma not a GED – along with additional specialization in one of eight in-demand career fields. These career certificates, ranging from certified transportation services to retail customer service skills, give graduates an extra edge when they search for employment upon graduation or a head start if they decide to go on for further education or training.

Developed in 2012 by Cengage Learning and Smart Horizons Career Online Education, the Career Online High School program was adapted for the public library market by Gale, a division of Cengage Learning, in 2014.

Currently more than 70 public libraries offer Career Online High School, with nearly 1,000 students and more than 130 graduates nationwide so far.

Libraries adapt to changing needs

The program is part of the ever-evolving mission of libraries determined to adapt to the changing needs of their patrons.

“In 2008 with the recession, libraries were impacted. A lot of libraries were seeing a ton more traffic than before,” said Phil Faust, vice president and publisher for databases at Gale. “What we saw in the market was a changing of the needs. People were coming and looking for help finding new jobs. They’d been in an industry like the automotive industry and never done anything else but had now been laid off.

“Libraries across the country started switching their programming and focus to educating the community, high school completion, things like that.”

And Career Online High School is one of the best examples of this.

How it works for a library and its students

Gale partners with libraries that are interested and guides them through an eight-week start-up and training process. Each library is provided a different package, depending on the number of seats (space for students) it wants. Some libraries have 25 students, while others will buy upwards of 200 seats at a time.

The students begin with a pre-requisite program, going through a sample class that shows them what it’s like to participate and allows the library to evaluate whether they qualify.

If accepted into the program, a student will have 18 months to complete it. All instruction is online, and students can either do the work at home or entirely at the library, if they have no computer or Internet access otherwise. Each student is given a scholarship, which comes out of the library’s budget, so there is no cost to them. Some libraries, including the San Diego Public Library, encourage members of the community to support the program by paying for a scholarship.

Gale offers support through representatives who work with the individual libraries, but it also offers support to individual students.

“We have dedicated academic coaches (provided by Smart Horizons) assigned to every student who takes the program. Their job is to assist them to make sure they’re successful and get through the program,” said Faust.

Los Angeles Public Library, one of the early adopters of Career Online High School, held a graduation ceremony in January for its first class of 28 students.

“L.A. is a city of second chances, and our libraries are a vital resource to help level the playing field of opportunity,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at the ceremony. “As today’s graduates complete their secondary education through the Career Online High School, we are inspired by the power of these types of programs to transform the lives of Angelenos.”

And as more libraries sign on to the program, Career Online High School is in the process of transforming the lives of people not just in Los Angeles, but across the U.S.

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Students or libraries interested in more information can contact Gale.

Online campus in Florida prisons

In addition to libraries, this program is being used by the Florida Department of Corrections. Known as FDOC Online Campus it operates at 15 facilities across the state. About 1,100 inmates have received diplomas during the the four years that the program has been in existence.