Whether they’re looking for a temporary, temp-to-perm or permanent position, those in re-entry need all the help they can get. And for many, turning to a staffing agency may be the most effective way to find employment.
Few people know this better than Ramona Mathany, founder and director of Portland, Ore., headquartered All Star Labor & Staffing.
“I did prison ministry for 10 years. After about three years of watching a revolving door in the prison, I was horrified to see them coming back and the whole reason they came back was because they couldn’t find a job,” she says.
“At the same time a very good friend of ours got out of prison and couldn’t find a job. I watched firsthand what happened to her. She had a felony, but it didn’t have anything to do with the type of work she was looking for. It was so frustrating, so I decided I should start something and fix it.”
And she’s done just that through All Star Labor & Staffing. Mathany estimates that of the 4,007 people the company had out on jobs last year, about 55 percent had criminal records. Her Redding, Calif. office is in the 80 percent range, while Bend, Ore., is 30 or 40 percent. The company also has offices in Albany and Salem, Ore.
It places employees – temps, temp-to-perms and direct hires – in jobs in manufacturing, food production and construction, as well as administrative office work and such hospitality jobs as cooks, servers, baristas and bartenders.
For those in reentry, working with an employment agency may be the only option for true success.
Why use an employment agency?
“Because they actually don’t have to do the interview. The interview is very stressful for someone, especially for those with a record,” says Mathany.
“Sometimes they’re so nervous they can’t show off what they can do. We’ve already done the interview for them by getting the customer. The best workers, in a lot of cases, may not interview the best, especially if they’re nervous about their background.”
This is a very good example, in general, of why it’s so important to prepare for interviews, including roleplaying them with family and friends.
Those who are sent out on assignment by All Star can also feel confident that they have the personality and ability to do the job. The company only hires 29 percent of the people it interviews.
Whether people are selected of course depends on if they can do the job, but that’s not all that matters, according to Mathany.
“It has to do with the attitude with which they’re reentering. We don’t want anybody who’s going to stay in the criminal mindset working for us,” she says. “We want someone who is completely remorseful for what they’ve done, and who says they would never do it again. They want to change their lives.”
Advice to job seekers
Mathany says there are several things that those with a records should do:
- Go out there and do the very best job you can, and work faster and harder than the other employees on the job.
- Always tell the truth about your past.
- Follow every single rule the employer tells you to follow.
- Work circles around the other people there. It will not matter what your background is if you’re that kind of worker.
Although many companies refuse to hire those in reentry, Mathany has been quite successful at convincing employers to consider this population.
She says she begins by sending employers people without backgrounds, as that opens the door. “We then ask them if they’d consider working with people from this population,” Mathany says. And often they will.
“We’re trying to change the face of employment and have people realize that this is an incredible population to work with,” she adds.
Note: For anyone outside of All Star’s operating areas of Portland, Bend, Albany, and Salem, Ore.; and Redding Calif., please see our website for a list of temp agencies in other parts of the country that we have heard good things about.
$10-$20 can make a difference and provide funding to send job search books to prison and jail libraries and expand our tattoo removal outreach.