Study shows how business apprenticeship programs can benefit companies and increase job opportunities

Business apprenticeshipsWhile the benefits of apprenticeships to those who participate in them are well known, there is little information on how these programs can improve the way businesses operate.

A recently released study, The Benefits and Costs of Apprenticeships: A Business Perspective, conducted by Case Western Reserve University and the U.S. Department of Commerce, however, highlights the benefits and analyzes the costs of business apprenticeship programs. And the case studies provided might inspire other companies to start their own programs. More apprenticeship programs will benefit those in reentry, who often have the ability but lack the training and skills to find well-paying employment.

Apprenticeships are no longer just about skilled trades and the construction industry. Health care, information technology, banking and other fields are successfully creating apprenticeship training programs to fill the rapidly growing need for skilled workers in those fields. The lack of skilled employees and its effect upon the economy is one of the reasons the Department of Commerce decided to do this study – and that companies are creating apprenticeship programs.

Study covered 13 companies

The study examined 13 businesses from a variety of occupations, industries and areas of the country that had ongoing apprenticeship programs. The shortest one studied lasted just one year, the longest more than four years.

In general, an apprenticeship involves paid on-the-job training, often with classroom instruction; and a mentor for each participant. It also offers certification to those who complete the program, indicating that they have the knowledge and training to do the job.

Reasons to create an apprenticeship program

There are several reasons why companies may want to create an apprenticeship program. These include to:

  • create a pipeline of skilled employees, who may be more loyal because of the training and opportunity they received.
  • be able to recruit better, more motivated employees.
  • train workers to the company’s specifications and develop future leaders.
  • improve worker productivity and the bottom line.
  • receive tax credits (in some states).

The cost to companies for administering the programs studied ranged from less than $25,000 to more than $250,000 per apprentice. But the economic return made it worth it, as indicated by two of the companies studied in depth.

The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH, used apprenticeships to help expand and reorganize its services. The program trained medical assistants, the addition of whom helped reduce overtime and increase revenue from appointment bookings. The internal rate of return was at least 40 percent.

Siemens USA saw a 50 percent rate of return for its machinist apprenticeship program, which was created to fill the manufacturing capacity at its Charlotte, NC, plant. The plant makes and repairs generators for electric utilities.

How business apprenticeship program benefits are measured

According to the report, apprenticeship model benefits can be measured in three areas:

  • Production: They lead to increase in output and decrease in errors.
  • Workforce: They promote reduction in turnover and improvement in recruitment.
  • Soft skills: They help develop improved employee engagement, and a better ability by participants to solve problems, perform a variety of tasks and work independently.

Companies may use a variety of models, and which one they choose can drastically affect the cost of setting up a program. Among the possibilities are to work together with other companies, with community colleges and other educational institutions, with unions or with nonprofit organizations.

In order to be successful, companies must balance their own needs with the needs and aspirations of their potential apprentices. They need to also be aware of current employees, who must see the apprentices as team members who can help the company grow and prosper, rather than threatening competition.

Through apprenticeship program examples cited in the study, readers can get an idea of

  • the benefits of partnerships.
  • the strategy behind developing classroom training.
  • the best way to carry out on-the-job training, and
  • how to estimate the number of apprentices to hire.

One section of the study helps companies determine the costs and measurable benefits of an apprenticeship program. It also elaborates on improvements that have been made as a result.

A series of case studies give readers in-depth knowledge of how several companies carried out their apprenticeship programs. They include programs for training everyone from medical assistants, drug store managers, computer programmers and IT interface analysts to injection mold setters, tool and die makers, parts assemblers and quality technicians.

New ROI tool measures the benefits of apprenticeships

For those seriously interested in starting an apprenticeship program, the Economics and Statistics Division of the U. S. Department of Commerce has released the beta version of its new return-on-investment calculator to help business executives understand how a program could benefit their company. The calculator can help translate ideas into dollars and cents.

And as an initial step in the process of exploring the option of creating an apprenticeship program, using the calculator will help companies decide whether it makes sense to pursue the idea further.

Employers who are thinking about launching an apprenticeship program may also want to check out the Employer’s Playbook for Creating an Apprenticeship Program published by Dow, Alcoa and Siemens with support from the Manufacturing Institute.

The importance of a handshake in a job interview

handshakeA handshake can sometimes make or break an interview. That’s right. It’s that important.

In fact, research has proved the significance of a proper handshake and how it can make a good – or bad – impression and influence hiring decisions.

According to a study done by the University of Iowa Tipple College of Business, a good handshake is more important than your appearance or the way you dress in sending a message to a hiring manager. Neuroscience research has also confirmed the power of a handshake and the fact that strangers form a better impression of those who effectively offer their hand in greeting.

The Iowa research focused on 98 business students who participated in mock interviews with area businesses. They also met with trained handshake raters, who shook their hands at various times during the study period.

What the researchers found was that those job seekers who were scored highly by the handshake raters were also considered more likely to be hired by those conducting the mock interviews.

It’s partly based on first impressions. Interviewers are said to make up their minds about a person in the first two or three minutes of an interview, and that’s exactly when the handshake takes place.

But it’s also the fact that, “Job seekers are trained how to act in a job interview, how to talk, how to dress, how to answer questions, so we all look and act alike to varying degrees because we’ve all been told the same things,” said Greg Stewart, Tipple School of Business professor and one of the researchers. “But the handshake is something that’s perhaps more individual and subtle, so it may communicate something that dress or physical appearance doesn’t.”

Handshake dos and don’ts

So what makes an appealing handshake? Here are some tips:

  • Even if you’re left-handed be prepared to shake with your right hand, and make sure it’s free when you’re meeting the hiring manager before the interview.
  • If your hand is sweaty, wipe it off. If it’s cold, warm it up before you arrive at the interview room.
  • Make eye contact and smile at the person you are meeting, before you shake their hand.
  • Let the hiring manager initiate the handshake.
  • Squeeze their hand firmly and shake from your elbow, not just your wrist. (About the worst impression you could make is with a limp, or dead fish, handshake, so avoid this at all costs.)
  • A handshake should only last for a few seconds, so after two or three pumps, loosen your hand.
  • Just like you rehearse the answers to potential interview questions, practice your handshake with friends and family members, so it will seem natural.

Keep in mind that a handshake is a universal greeting that can express connection and unity and that you care, which may help to make a lasting impression.

And make sure that your handshake is as polished and perfected as the rest of your interview skills. It may make the difference of whether you get the job or not.


Good Jobs Project highlights jobs without a B.A.

Good Jobs ProjectThe Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce has created the Good Jobs Project to help people discover well-paying jobs that don’t require a B.A. degree. If you’re looking for a place to relocate or interested in state specific details, the project’s website offers insight into the states with the most opportunities.

A partnership between the university and JPMorgan Chase & Co., the Good Jobs Project includes an initial report, a state-by-state analysis released November 13 and an interactive tool to help those interested explore the 30 million good jobs across the U.S. that don’t require a B.A.

Good jobs without a B.A. are plentiful is a variety of fields

The original report, Good Jobs That Pay Without a B.A. highlights the facts that:

  • There are 30 million good jobs nationwide that do not require a B.A.
  • These jobs pay a minimum of $35,000 and an average of $55,000 per year.
  • In fact, 20% pay between $35,000 and $45,000, 27% between $45,000 and $55,000, and 53% more than $55,000.
  • Although blue-collar work still makes up 55% of the total number, good jobs that pay are growing rapidly in skilled service industries such as information technology, finance, healthcare, and leisure and hospitality.
  • In more and more cases, a high school diploma is no longer enough. Many blue-collar and skilled services good jobs require an A.A. degree.
  • The states that offer the most good jobs without a B.A. are California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois.
  • Well-paying blue-collar jobs are still strong in manufacturing, utilities and transportation.
State-by-State analysis report offers in-depth data for comparison

In the Good Jobs Project’s State-by-State Analysis report, you will learn that:

  • 23 states have seen an increase in blue-collar jobs, thanks to construction and non-manufacturing industries.
  • Some states still offer strong employment opportunities for those with just a high school education – West Virginia and Delaware rank at the top of this list.
  • Just about half of all states added good jobs for workers without B.A.s between 1991 and 2015.
  • Nine of these states have seen the greatest increase – 50% or more – in good jobs without a B.A. between 1991 and 2015. These states are Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Texas, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota.
  • While workers without B.A.s hold 45% of all good jobs nationally, in some states that percentage is much higher: 62% in Wyoming, 61% in Mississippi, 57% in Nevada, and 56% in Wyoming and Oregon, for example.

The State-by-State analysis report includes a profile of each state that covers the earning statistics for non-B.A. good job holders, the change in the number of non-B.A. good jobs between 1992 and 2015, and the top five industries and occupations for non-B.A. good jobs.

For more information about jobs that don’t require a B.A., click here.



30-2-2 programs encourage companies to hire ex-offenders

30-2-230-2-2. It’s a simple concept. Just get 30 companies to hire two workers leaving jail or prison and track their progress for two years. The idea is so simple, in fact, that it’s surprising that more communities haven’t adopted it. But maybe more would, if only they were aware of how this program works and the benefits it can offer.

It all started in Western Michigan. Specialty butter producer Butterball Farms, Cascade Engineering and Grand Rapids Community College launched the first 30-2-2 program in 2012.  That initial effort has grown to include 23 employers.

A consultant helped recruit the companies to get the program going, but in more recent years, local businesses have become involved by word of mouth, according to Carrie Link, personal assistant to Butterball Farms CEO and its 30-2-2 coordinator.

First program started with a couple of employers

“We started with one or two companies that hired these people, they told other companies that the people are good workers, and it spread,” she says.

During the first two years – 2014 to 2016 – 1,709 people were placed through the program, which is now in the midst of its second cycle that ends in July. Although there’s no 30-2-2 training course, some agencies that supply the candidates have their own training programs.

What are the main challenges for a program like 30-2-2?

“It’s dealing with the stigma surrounding people coming out of the prison system,” Link says. “Companies will say, ‘we don’t hire those kinds of people. He’s had a violent crime, so he’s going to be violent.’ But that’s not true, and the facts back that up. The challenge is how to educate the community of people who can hire these people.”

New Orleans 30-2+2 Reentry Collaborative launched by U.S. Attorney’s Office

While the original 30-2-2 was a private sector program created by local business leaders, the 30-2+2 Reentry Collaborative in New Orleans was launched by Kenneth Polite, the former district attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Louisiana, to help improve public safety, reduce recidivism and provide talent to local employers.

In the beginning the program drew participants from a unique program at Angola – also known as the Louisiana State Penitentiary – and continues to do so. Low level drug offenders can be sentenced to serve their time at Angola and participate in a reentry program that offers 19 areas of hard skills training in which they can get certificates in things like welding or refrigeration. The program also includes 100 hours of soft skills training,

When the 30-2+2 Reentry Collaborative began, the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court identified the potential reentry candidates. It has expanded dramatically, however. “Now every parish criminal court in the state of Louisiana is authorized to send inmates to the program,” says Poiite.

Many Angola inmates are lifers who have gone through various trainings, and some of those lifers become mentors for the reentry program participants.

“The only way you could graduate from the reentry program was if the mentor determined that you were prepared to return back to society,’ says Polite. “And because we saw that mentor component being so important behind bars, we thought it would be equally important to have mentors while individuals were back on the street and engaging in employment.”

Although current 30-2+2 mentors are recruited from the local business community, many of the original mentors were formerly incarcerated employees of Goodwill Industries. The Angola program served as the pipeline for employee candidates, and the original employers were first solicited at a New Orleans Chamber of Commerce symposium. It took a few months for the first employer, Harrah’s Casino, to come onboard, and a bit of “arm twisting” for others to follow.

“We said the that these (people released from Angola) are fairly safe bets for you and that they would turn out to be successful employees given the effort that they made behind bars,” Polite says.

Polite says that other communities considering starting one of these programs need to know “that a lot of these individuals really want to be successful. They’re often walking out of prison with some training, soft skills and rehabilitation behind them. They are finding doors closed in their faces over and over again. If employers are willing to take the chance, these are very loyal and very hard-working individuals.”

They make good employees, but they also offer special challenges. “Employers have to be patient. They’re going to have challenges in terms of such obligations as court proceedings and probation hearings. An employer has to allow people to get their lives back together,” Polite says.

Latest program created in southern Illinois

The 30-2-2 program in Michigan and 30-2+2 Reentry Collaborative in Louisiana inspired Chris Hoell, assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, to create a similar program. He was actually brought on to his current job at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Fairview Heights Ill., as one of 90 reentry and prevention coordinators hired across the country. These were all a part of the Obama administration’s Attorney General’s Smart on Crime Initiative.

Hoell’s office began placing employees in positions in August, after a year of a consultant running around the area knocking on about 250 employers’ doors. Hoell sat in on meetings with those who were having reservations and with the bigger companies. His territory covers the lower 36 counties of the state of Illinois, a region that ranges from rural farm communities to East St. Louis, one of nation’s most poverty stricken and highest crime areas.

At press time, 33 employers had signed up, and Hoell was in talks with several more, including Amazon.

“Some companies were immediately on board. I was surprised by that. Others had reservations. How would it look to their employees and customers? Would there be an increase in crime or theft? The normal things people are worried about but statistics don’t back them up,” he says.

To find employees, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is partnering with the probation department and asking the probation officers to recommend candidates.

“One of our selling points (to hiring managers) is the people we want to send you have a probation officer. They have a requirement to work. They’re being drug tested. If you have a problem you can call the probation department,” Hoell says.

In addition, the Illinois Bureau of Prisons has well established training programs, and people are coming out with certificates in various trades. “Most people who want to work have availed themselves of everything they could either while in prison or after they got out,” Hoell adds.

What it takes to start a 30-2-2 program

“The biggest thing you need is sweat equity – to get out and knock on doors and educate people,” he says. “There are plenty of people getting out of prison who have no desire to go back. It’s finding those employers who are willing to take a chance and make the connection happen.”

Once the connection is made, employers have been satisfied with the hires. “We’ve had nothing but positive feedback, but they’re always taking a chance. What I stress is that everyone is not just a felon, but a person with a story and a background. These people have so much to lose. And beyond that, most workplace violence is committed by people without any criminal background.”

Hoell hopes that more people will do what he did. “I would encourage anyone who has an interest to do it. It took a lot of work and help from other people, but there’s nothing special about me or my background to make this happen. And there’s a need for it everywhere,” he says.

Those interested in starting their own

Communities interested in starting their own 30-2-2 program may wish to contact one of the already existing programs highlighted in this article.

Finding a few key initial potential employers will take a bit of effort but will form the foundation for a program. It will take a lot of networking and knocking on doors, and it might be easier to hire a consultant to help with this endeavor.

To source employee candidates, contact local area probation and parole offices and reentry organizations. The Lionheart Foundation maintains a state-by-state database of reentry programs that could be helpful.

Jails to Jobs offers its job search book free to prison and jail schools and reentry programs nationwide

Over the past two years, Jails to Jobs has given a free copy of its book, Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed, to every jail library in California and to many libraries in prisons and jails across the country. And now it wants to offer a free copy to any prison or jail school or associated reentry program in the country that requests one.

According to many people we’ve heard from and reviews on Amazon, the book is a very helpful resource for those preparing to reenter society or who have already done so.

Jeff Riddick, a teacher at a California correctional facility, is one of those who finds it a good tool. In fact, he told us that when his prison first received the book, he read it every day and still uses it as his main job search reference. And that’s pretty impressive, considering the fact that he began teaching job search skills classes in the 1980s.

“There’s a lot of very useful information that, if applied, can lead you to success. I read it for a while every day. I’d pick a page and read it,” he says. “I keep it with me in the portfolio I carry around all day, and when a guy asks me a question, I pull it out.”

And why does Riddick like it? “It has a lot of positive up-to-date info, as much as a book can have. It’s small, condensed, and not intimidating. It’s a good primer and a good thing to go back to use as a reference,” he says. “The chapters are highlighted which makes it easy to find things. A higher functioning guy, who reads at an 8th or 9th grade level, can get a lot of use out of it. And others as well, with the simplicity of the boxes and the info in the appendices.”

“Every page provides some kind of tip that anyone can use. And to me that’s the most important thing.”

Who can get a free book and how they can get it

Because he has found our book so useful, we’ve decided to expand our giveaway program to more people like Riddick. These people can be teachers at schools within jails and prisons that include job search in their curriculum or plan to, or associated reentry service coordinators like Ken Bailor with Riverside (Calif.) ReEntry Services. They can also be librarians.

If you’re a prison or jail school teacher or reentry counselor offering job search curriculum and coaching, or plan to, or a jail or prison librarian anywhere in the U.S., feel free to contact us for a complimentary copy of Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed. We’ll also include a free PowerPoint presentation that will allow you to offer workshops based on the book.

We hope to place a complimentary copy of the book and PowerPoint presentation into as many jail and prison schools, reentry programs, and lending libraries as possible. And with 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons and 3,163 local jails, we clearly have our work cut out for us.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Using Three Good Things technique can increase happiness, decrease depression and improve job search

three good thingsIf everything you have to do in life is overwhelming you and making you depressed, there’s a simple technique that you can employ. This technique has the power to increase your happiness and decrease depression. It can also offer a sense of sanity when your life appears to be falling apart.

It’s called Three Good Things and was developed by Martin Seligman, professor  of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and known as the father of positive psychology. He applied this technique to subjects in a research study in 2005, finding that using it had the same effect as Prozac in improving the subjects’ well being.

Basically at the end of the day you write down three good things that happened to you that day and reflect on those three things.

The reason why it works, according to Seligman, is that “it changes your focus from what goes wrong in your life to what goes well.” In his experiment Seligman showed that you can go from 15 on the happiness scale to 50, just from doing this exercise for a week. And even if you stop, the resulting improved attitude can last for weeks or even months.

According to J. Bryan Sexton, professor of psychology at Duke University, noticing the positive things short circuits our natural tendency to concentrate on the negative. We tend to focus on the negative as a sort of a biological survival method. When something bad happens that can endanger us, we want to remember it so it doesn’t happen again. Not so for the good things. They tend to get lost and forgotten.

One of the best things this exercise can do is improve your sleep. That’s why you should do it within two hours of bedtime, but the closer the better. Having positive thoughts about your day will help you sleep better and deeper, and if you wake up in the middle of the night, you will be able to go back to sleep faster and easier, according to Sexton.

Here’s how to do it:

Sit down with a notebook or just a pen and paper – or you could do it on the computer as well – and write down three good things that happened to you that day. You should give the event a title and write down as many details as possible. What happened, where it happened, how it made you feel, and most importantly, your role in making the good thing come about.

Here are a few examples:

I reached a hiring manager.

After calling 35 of the 50 companies on my list, I finally reached a hiring manager. I gave her my elevator pitch and asked if I could send her my resume. I was so happy after all of the negative replies I had received I finally had a conversation. She wanted my resume, which I also sent in.

I called an old friend.

I called an old friend who is working in a job similar to what I would like to do and invited him to meet me for coffee next week. It made me feel good, because I haven’t been calling many of my contacts lately, but I know that’s the way to network and ultimately find a job.

I chatted with my next door neighbor.

I saw my next door neighbor Rosa today and stopped to talk to her. She’s nearly 80, and I know she’s lonely, since she has no family nearby. I love to hear her stories, though, and talking to her always makes me happy.

Keep a Three Good Things journal for at least a week – two is better. Although it might be difficult at first, this exercise will train your mind to highlight the positive things that happen in your life. Remembering them might push some of the negative thoughts to the far corner of your brain.

It’s not only a good habit to develop, but you should be much happier as a result.

For other ways to increase your happiness and sense of well-being, check out:

How being kind can help you feel happier and healthier

Three simple tips to cultivate happiness

How to develop a positive attitude

How kindness can help you in your job search and your life

Flipping cars can provide a little extra cash or become a viable business

flipping cars

Although Lehmann specialized in Volkswagens, any car that sells well in the area where one lives will do.

Buying and selling cars can be a way to score some extra cash every once in a while. It can also become a lucrative business if you qualify for licensing.

Most states have laws preventing residents from selling more than a certain number of cars per year. And that number usually tends to be rather low – under five vehicles. To sell more than that may require an automobile dealer’s license. And many states deny these licenses to people with felony convictions for some, but usually not all, crimes.

Although it may provide challenges, selling vehicles is still worth looking into, especially for those who love cars and trucks. If you just want to sell a handful, it’s not a problem. But for anything beyond that, you’ll have to check out the licensing requirements with your state’s DMV.

Higher priced cars usually mean higher profits

Many “how to sell cars” websites recommend buying and selling low-end cars, say those worth $1,000 to $4,000. You’ll take less financial risk selling at this price range, but you also may end up buying vehicles that need a fair amount of work before you can sell them, since they tend to be older models. You’ll also make less money than selling higher priced cars, which can offer greater markups and may be easier to fix up, especially if they are recent models with relatively low mileage.

One person who did this is Californian Charlie Lehmann. No, he doesn’t have a criminal record – or at least we don’t think he does – but his story still can be an inspiration to anyone considering doing something similar.

Lehmann began buying and selling a few Volkswagen diesel cars, and together with his son, built a successful business that netted $1.3 million in a year and a half.

That year and a half was 2004 to 2005, and Lehman was selling only Volkswagen diesel cars. He would fly all over the country – from Alaska to Florida – to purchase them and then drive them back to California.

“I would fly there, write a check, go to the bank, get the pink slip and drive back. In some cases, not a lot of cases, we’d actually wire transfer the money into the person’s account. In those days there was a big demand (in California) for the cars we were selling,” he says.

Craigslist, Auto Trader and are good places to buy vehicles

He found the cars on Craigslist, Auto Trader and and was soon selling so many – about 20 per month – that he had to recruit some of the retired members of a social club he’s active in to help him drive them back.

He also bought cars from car dealers who took vehicles that were not popular in their market in on trades. Auto auctions can be a good source as well.

Because he specialized in Volkswagen diesel cars, Lehmann got to know them very well. “It was very important for us (to specialize). It kept us focused. We knew the cars, and we were not buyers and sellers of automobiles (in general). We were limited in our knowledge space.”

Although specializing is important to get a knowledge edge, the most important thing, as far as the cars were concerned, was that they looked like new.

“I’d drive the car back. My wife would have it serviced. If the window had a pit, we’d take it in and have a new windshield put in. The car needed to look like new. If it had a ding in the door, we’d get the ding guy. They’d come out for less than a hundred bucks and get rid of the dings,” he says.

“As long as the margin was there, we’d buy them. Basically we wanted the newer cars within 1-1/2 to 3 years old, because after three years the price is substantially reduced.” They netted $4,000 on average for each of the approximately 300-plus cars they sold.

Although Lehman specialized in Volkswagen diesel cars, this business model can work with virtually any price range and type of car as long as you know what the value is and if there is a market for the car where you plan to sell it.

Because of the quality of the Volkswagens they bought, Lehmann and his crew never had a breakdown driving them back to California. There were three accidents involving animals – rabbits and a porcupine – however.

Tips for those new to buying and selling cars

Advice from Lehmann and others for people starting out:

  • Specialize in a certain make of car. You’ll learn to know it well.
  • You don’t need much money, except to buy your first car.
  • Have a passion for whatever car you choose to specialize in. Without a passion, you can’t sell them, and ultimately selling is everything.
  • Buy cars with the lowest mileage you can get.
  • Make sure they look good, but it doesn’t cost that much money to fix them up cosmetically. You can do most of the cleanup work yourself, although you may want to take it to a detailer and will definitely want to replace a cracked windshield or have a professional take out the dings.
  • Plan to get a dealer’s license – or work with someone who can get one – if you’re going to sell more than the number of cars legally allowed in your state.

So, if you think this might possibly be the business for you, do your research and follow the tips in this and other articles, as well as YouTube videos you find online. Here are a few examples:


wikiHow to Buy and Sell Cars for Profit

Earn $500+ This Weekend: An Intro to Flipping Cars

Business idea for nonprofit reentry organization

This concept could also make a great business for an organization that works with people in reentry, according to Lehman. An organization could employ well suited clients to learn to buy and sell cars as a business under the guidance of an experienced manager. A car dealership might even be interested in becoming a partner in supporting such an idea by helping to share the costs and providing other resources. With a big smile and lots of enthusiasm Lehmann said, “These numbers are real and scalable, and the business is a nice opportunity for learning and profits.”


Inability to obtain occupational licensing helps prevent ex-offenders from getting jobs

Occupational licensing

A barber license is just one type of license denied to those with a criminal record by some states.

As if those leaving prison and jails don’t have enough problems finding employment, there’s one more challenge they face. An estimated total of at least one-quarter of all U.S. jobs require some type of licensing. And people with criminal records are prohibited from obtaining many of these licenses.

Not only can they not work in a vast variety of positions that require licensing, but those who have a criminal record can’t start their own businesses in the restricted occupations. And in many cases, it doesn’t even matter if the crime committed has any relevance to the type of work for which the license is required.

Occupational licensing is determined at the state level, and an estimated 32,000 laws nationwide related to occupational and business licensing include a consideration of criminal records. These laws are listed in the National Bar Association National Inventory of Collateral Causes of Conviction.

The inventory is catalogued and searchable by state, offering a list of all the applicable laws and exactly what they prohibit. It’s an excellent source for those who would like to know if they can – or cannot – pursue licensing for a particular job in a particular state.

The number and scope of the laws provide a serious impediment to those with criminal records and those in reentry trying to get back on their feet. They’re also a detriment to society, with states spending millions of dollars to pay for the cost of re-incarceration.

States with heaviest licensing burdens show highest recidivism rates

Turning Shackles into Bootstraps: Why Occupational Licensing Reform Is the Missing Piece of Criminal Justice Reform, a study done by Stephen Slivinski, senior research fellow at the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty, W.P. Carey College of Business, Arizona State University, focused on the relationship between three-year recidivism rates and occupational licensing restrictions affecting those with criminal records.

The study’s research “estimates that between 1997 and 2007 the states with the heaviest occupational licensing burdens saw an average increase in the three-year, new-crime recidivism rate of over 9%. Conversely, the states that had the lowest burdens and no such character provisions saw an average decline in that recidivism rate of nearly 2.5%.”

State laws reform licensing restrictions

Although the problem remains, several states are taking action to reform licensing laws to give those with criminal records more opportunities.

For example, last year Illinois passed HB5973 that, according to the bill, “allows the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to consider an applicant’s prior conviction or convictions, but provides that the conviction or convictions may not be the sole basis for refusing to issue a license unless the crime substantially and directly relates to the occupation for which the license is sought.”

In April, the governor of Kentucky signed SB120 into law. The bill removes automatic bans for felons seeking professional/occupational licenses and guarantees that those who are refused a license be granted a hearing.

Connecticut, another state making legal reforms, passed HB5764 into law in July. The new law removes criminal history restrictions from the licensing of barbers and hair dressers.

While these are just a few examples, they give an idea of what can and needs to be done by the states on a much broader level. Stakeholders who deal with those incarcerated and in reentry may want to organize and influence elected officials to change any existing laws requiring licenses that create barriers to employment.

By lifting restrictions to licensing for those with criminal records, those struggling to reestablish their lives after leaving prison or jail will have more opportunities to find employment and more jobs to choose from.


References may be key to helping ex-offenders find a job

job referencesWhen you’re in reentry and looking for a job, you’ll need all the help you can get. And that means finding people who can speak about your talents, skills and character to a potential employer.

Along with your resume or JIST card and turnaround packet, don’t forget a list of references.

It’s no longer appropriate to just include “references available upon request” at the bottom of your resume. Instead you should compile a professional looking list of several people who are happy to sing your praises. Pick people who have known you for at least three months, but the longer the better.

These references can be a boss you worked for, a supervisor at a volunteer gig (all the more reason to volunteer) or, if you haven’t had a job for a while, you can use a personal reference that knows you well. For a personal reference, you might choose a teacher, coach, mentor, spiritual leader, counselor or even the job developer you’re working with.

Before you include them on your list, however, check to see if it’s OK and ask them the best way for potential employers to contact them. Make sure you get all the relevant info: the person’s name and title, name of the company or organization and its address. Also ask for the reference’s work phone number (or mobile phone if it’s a personal reference) and an email address.

Include a sentence or two on how the reference knows you and maybe some specific information they might be able to share about you.

Find a job reference template online

There are many templates online, but we particularly like the one on the Damn Good Resume Guide website. Another good example can be found on the Career Nook website.

Make sure your references have your latest resume or JIST card, so they’ll be up to date on your experience. Also contact them when you go on a job interview, preferably before, in case the hiring manager calls them soon after the interview is over. Let your references know what type of job you’re applying for and where, just as a heads up in case they do get a call.

Have your reference call the hiring manager

Another effective, usually overlooked, tactic is to have your reference call the hiring manager, preferably before the interview. This can demonstrate initiative on your part and a sincere interest in being offered a job. Your reference could say something like, “I understand that (your name) is coming in for an interview tomorrow (or whenever), and I’d like to highly recommend him. He worked for me on a bathroom remodel, and he’s an excellent carpenter, hard worker and reliable. I highly recommend him.”

Of course what the reference says would be tailored to you and the job you’re applying for, but this can be very effective.

Finding a good reference or two who can vouch for your abilities might just be the extra thing that will inspire someone to hire you.


Knife Skills film highlights previously incarcerated employees at Edwins restaurant in Cleveland

Knife Skills

Employees at Edwins in Cleveland, Ohio, are profiled in Thomas Lennon’s new film, Knife Skills.

Restaurants are among the biggest employers of people in reentry. But what’s it really like for those leaving jail or prison to work in one of them? How do formerly incarcerated workers adjust to their new lives and responsibilities?

Academy Award winning filmmaker Thomas Lennon takes us into their world in his new film, Knife Skills, an inside look at the creation and opening of Edwins, an upscale French restaurant in Cleveland. Its name stands for “education wins,” and its staff is made up almost entirely of previously incarcerated individuals. They are trained at the Edwins Leadership & Training Institute, which has graduated about 180 students in its three-plus years of existence.

But back to the beginning where the 40-minute documentary opens with the training of the original restaurant staff members. Lennon shows the intense determination of these workers as they learn how to cook and serve the 25 dishes on the menu in a few weeks. There was so much to absorb, since some of them had absolutely no cooking or serving experience at all. But Gilbert, the French head chef, was up to the challenge. Among other practical knowledge, the students needed to become well versed in French culinary terms and the world of wine.

During 45 days spent filming in Cleveland over a three-and-a-half-year period, Lennon was able to get to know a few of the personalities who make Edwins the special place that it is. And he introduces them to the viewers. There’s Dorian, who received 11 years for drug trafficking; Mike, nine years for heroin and aggravated robbery; and Alan, four years for drug trafficking and robbery, among others profiled.

When he decided to do the film, Lennon had no experience with people who had been imprisoned. The idea for the film was totally serendipitous. He was having dinner with a friend who’s a chef. Another guest announced that he was going to establish a restaurant in Cleveland that would be the best French restaurant in the U.S. And it would be staffed entirely by previously incarcerated individuals. Lennon thought it would make a good subject for a documentary and decided to take it on.

Not an easy film to make

It wasn’t an easy film to make, however. Brandon Chrostowski, Edwins founder, president and CEO, had turned down a number of producers who wanted to do reality TV programs. “He made an exception with me but was very cautious and ferociously protective of the people in his training program,” Lennon says.

Another reason why it was difficult to make is that it’s, as Lennon calls it, an ensemble piece. “There’s no one person who’s the central story of the film. It jumps from one person to the next,” he says. “I had to develop each of these characters and at the same time develop the story as a whole. I felt very passionately that the film should not be very long. The goal was to make it as short as I possibly could and still convey the message. Making it as short as possible and telling everyone’s story took a long time.”

He also had challenges raising funding but eventually was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship from the Open Society Foundations.

From Lennon’s point of view, the effort was worth it. He says he gained insight into a subject he was totally unfamiliar with.

“I wasn’t well read at all in the field. I just went in and captured what went on in front of the camera,” Lennon says, At first, he thought that the second chance (in the form of a job) that Edwins was offering was all the employees needed. Lennon discovered that he was wrong, however, when one after the other ran into real difficulties.

“This is a very vulnerable population with any number of risk factors, like PTSD or addiction. It’s a population that needs our respect and support. The film is about the human face of reentry. I wanted other people to meet these folks and care,” he says.

During the time he got to know the employees, Lennon was impressed by their resolve to step up and deal with the challenges they faced.

“Everybody had something that they were trying to prove, and the stakes are enormous,” he says. “In many cases I felt that there was some flaw they were trying to fix, and they didn’t want that flaw to come back. They wanted to repair something within themselves. I felt extremely privileged to be there and be inside those experiences.”

And he made friends with many of the people he filmed.

Film festival appearances

Knife Skills has been shown at a variety of film festivals, including the 2017 Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival and Ohio’s Chagrin Documentary Film Festival. Upcoming appearances are scheduled at film festivals in Hot Springs, Ark., Woodstock, N.Y., Wilmington, N.C., and Napa Valley, Calif.

At the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival, Knife Skills was the opening film, which Lennon says is very unusual for a short documentary.

“We’d scheduled two screenings of Knife Skills. There was so much enthusiasm, we added a third, then a fourth screening. In the end, we held six screenings of the film!  In all my years running this festival, I’ve never seen that before,” says Mary Ann Quinn Ponce, director of the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival

After the film festival circuit, Lennon hopes the film will appear on Netflix, PBS or other channels. He would also like Knife Skills to be shown to people who are about to be released or were recently released from prison or jail. Any organizations that would be interested in doing so can contact him at


From the editor: We suggest that restaurant recruiting managers looking to hire those previously incarcerated contact transitional housing and rehab facilities, as well as reentry organizations. These can all make good community partners for sourcing people in reentry who are likely to make good employees. In addition to finding these facilities and organizations  by searching the Internet, you can also check with your local American Job Center, which should be able to offer referrals.

For those in reentry, check with your local American Job Center for any restaurant paid internship training programs. Feel free to share this article and refer to Edwins. Craigslist and directly visiting successful restaurants — a best way to hunt — are both great ways to look for positions in the kitchen, or as a busser, dishwasher, bartender or server. Aim for a successful interview and get your foot in the door. Work hard, offer your best attitude, prove yourself and advance.