Pre-apprenticeship programs provide career path entry

Engineer Teaching Apprentice To Use Milling MachineThe trades are said to be ex-offender friendly and not only provide solid wages and benefits but also offer a career path to follow. The best way to get into a trade is through an apprenticeship program, and the best way to get into an apprenticeship program is through a pre-apprenticeship program.

Although there are a number of steps that you must take, if you do a decent job may be at the end of the road. The first step, a pre-apprenticeship program, is an educational program that prepares people to be ready to apply for a registered apprenticeship program.

Participants in these programs receive in-class and hands-on training that will help them develop educational and work-related skills that may make them more likely to be accepted into an apprenticeship. They will be able to improve their literacy, math and English skills, and be trained in such work-readiness habits as showing up on time and following instructions. They will also get a head start on career-specific training.

Pre-apprenticeship programs exist for quite a few blue-collar fields, including carpentry, construction, medic, pipe fitter and culinary trades.

These programs are sponsored by a variety of nonprofit organizations, unions and community colleges. The community college programs require tuition, but scholarships may be available and some pre-apprenticeship programs are covered by grants.

Currently there is no national directory of programs that we know of, although several organizations have tried to create one.

The best way to find out about a pre-apprenticeship program in your area is to contact your local American Job Center (formerly known as One-Stop Career Center).

Here are a few links to give you an idea of what’s out there. 

Washington State Programs

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries maintains a section on their website with links to a variety of pre-apprenticeship programs, including school and nonprofit based, as well as a program for Native Americans.

Maine Pre-Apprenticeship Program

The state of Maine offers a high-school level pre-apprenticeship program that combines one or two years of academics with 1,000 hours of on-the-job training during 11th and/or 12th grades. Those completing the program can enter an apprenticeship.

Building California Construction Careers

This site has links to pre-apprenticeship programs throughout California that are related to the construction industry.

Rhode Island Marine Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Programs

The Rhode Island Marine Trades Association offers a free six-week Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program that teaches such skills as painting, varnishing, rigging, forklift operation and other things needed to gain employment in the yacht and boat-building industry.

Washington, D.C., Pre-Apprenticeship Green Construction Program

Operated by Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C. this program is open to residents of D.C. and Maryland and teaches solar installation, sustainable building, weatherization and other things workers need to know to be employed in the field of green construction.

North Carolina Pre-Apprenticeship Program

This site offers a contact number for the state’s pre-apprenticeship program.

Hawaii Pre-Apprenticeship Construction Training Program

This program, operated by the Building Industry Association of Hawaii gives participants an overview of the construction trades and prepares them for entry-level positions in the workforce and in apprenticeship programs.

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Chicago-area tattoo removal organization creates mobile unit

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Chris Baker of Ink 180.

Ink 180 of Oswego, Ill., has launched a mobile tattoo-removal unit. The unit, which consists of an RV and two retired ambulances, travels to sites around inner city Chicago on a weekly basis.

Chris Baker, the organization’s founder, operates a tattoo shop as well as a nonprofit organization that does free tattoo removals and cover-ups, in which he imposes a beautiful tattoo on top of already existing ink.

“Seventy percent  of the work I do is free,” he says. “It’s tattoo removal and tattoo cover-ups for former gang members, former inmates, victims of sex trafficking and victims of domestic violence.  I also do cover-ups for people who cut themselves.”

About one-quarter of the procedures he performs are cover-ups; the rest removals. “I don’t do any cover-up work on the hands or the neck, and that’s where most of the gang tattoos are,” Baker says. “We want people to go out and get a job. In the tattoo industry we call those tattoos job killers.”

Making it mobile

Baker is an outreach pastor who does street ministry in Chicago. He looks at his tattoo removal work and the mobile unit as an extension of this.

The idea for the mobile unit came about during a meeting last summer between Baker and the Illinois Health Department to discuss a new facility for his tattoo business. Department officials suggested a mobile unit. Although a good idea, it was something Baker thought might happen in the distant future. But thanks to the donation of an RV not too long afterwards, his organization was able to begin its mobile unit this spring.

Word spread, and soon Baker had received two more vehicles – retired ambulances. He and a group of volunteers go throughout the inner city of Chicago on a weekly basis and have also visited Detroit, Kansas City and Indianapolis.

How it works

A church, a ministry or other group will approach Ink 180 saying they have a number of people who want gang and other tattoos removed. He works with the churches to make it an event that may include various other organizations and providers offering services like GED preparation or dental care.

Tattoo removal appointments are made ahead of time, and he has two or three people ready to volunteer. He and his team can perform up to 20 removals per vehicle and have done a total of up to 60 removals per day.

Baker never charges for any of the tattoo removals or cover-ups done by the mobile unit or the nonprofit Ink 180 Ministry. He raises money from donations on his website and from the many churches and organizations where he does public speaking engagements. He also often receives donations from the clients of his for-profit tattoo business.

To learn more Chris Baker and Ink 180, visit the organization’s website at www.ink180ministry.com.

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Illinois and New Hampshire laws aid victims of human trafficking

Girl with a bar-code

Victims of human trafficking are often tattooed against their will with such things as a barcode.

New laws passed in recent months in Illinois and New Hampshire will help victims of human trafficking begin to mend themselves and get their lives back together.

Many trafficked victims, especially those trafficked for sex, are tattooed with what looks like a barcode, declaring the wearer the property of the criminal who engaged them in the practice.

In Illinois, House Bill 5858, introduced by Illinois State Representative John D. Anthony (R-Morris) and sponsored by Illinois State Senator Michael Connelly (R-Naperville), passed unanimously in both the Illinois House and the Illinois Senate in April and May.

The legislation allows licensed tattoo businesses to remove tattoos from minors who were former gang members and/or victimized by human trafficking or sexual or other servitude. Under the previous law, tattoos artists could not perform work, including tattoo removal, on minors without the presence of a parent or guardian.

Last year Illinois legislators passed Illinois House Bill 2640, sponsored by Illinois State Representative Kelly Burke (D-Evergreen Park) and effective at the beginning of 2014, that allows victims of human trafficking who have been branded by their trafficker to be reimbursed for the cost of the tattoo removal treatments through the Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Fund. This fund was originally created to reduce the financial burdens imposed on victims of violent crime and their families.

“Victims of human trafficking have endured unimaginable trials, and they cannot truly break free if they still bear the physical reminders of such a painful experience,” Burke said. “Helping to remove the tattoos that were forced on them, and literally branded them as property, is essential to helping these individuals live with the freedom and dignity they deserve.”

Meanwhile, this year New Hampshire voted in New Hampshire Senate Bill 317, landmark legislation passed unanimously in both the New Hampshire State Senate and the New Hampshire State House, a rare event in The Granite State. This broad-based law increases criminal penalties for the sex trafficking of minors and protects the victims of sex trafficking from  criminal prosecution.

As a result of passage of the bill, victims can now sue their trafficker for damages within 20 years of being trafficked. Victims will also now be paid for the removal of such identifying tattoos as barcodes  with funds from the New Hampshire Victims Compensation Fund.

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan signed the bill on July 25, and it will go into effect 90 days after that.

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Survey shows companies look beyond criminal record in hiring

Background CheckWhile the thought of a background check is enough to make anyone with a record cringe, a recent survey of employers on the subject reveals some rather surprising results.

The survey, The Unvarnished Truth: 2014 Top Trends in Employment Background Checks, was conducted by EmployeeScreenIQ, a Cleveland, Ohio-based international background check company early this year. Nearly 600 executives, managers and others representing a wide variety of companies – ranging in size from less than 100 to 5,000 employees – filled it out.

Compared with the previous year – the company does this annually – results show that more companies are adopting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidelines on background checks. At the same time, however, the majority are still asking for self disclosure – “the box” – which the EEOC recommends not including on employment applications.

Key findings of the report

Here are some of the key findings that indicate respondents’ current practices. Of respondents:

  • 45% refused to hire job candidates with criminal records only 5% of the time or less, meaning that they look beyond the applicant’s criminal background to consider their qualifications, dedication and references in making hiring decisions.
  • 88% have adopted the EEOC’s guidance on how to use criminal background checks, a significant increase over the 32% of the year before.
  • 66% still include “the box” on applications, in spite of the EEOC’s recommendation not to do so.
  • 8% said they automatically disqualify candidates who indicate that they have a criminal conviction prior to a background check.
  • 64% conduct individual assessments of those with criminal conviction records, going beyond their past to consider their qualifications.
  • 38% search online for candidate information as part of the hiring process, with LinkedIn the most commonly looked at site (visited by 80% of those who do online searches; followed by a general search on Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. by 63%; and Facebook by 48%).
  • 50% refuse to hire 90% or more people who have lied on their resumes, indicating that falsifying information included on resumes may be worse than having a criminal record.
  • 14% conduct credit checks on everyone they hire. Counter to popular belief that most companies are running credit checks, 57% of respondents to the survey don’t do them at all.

Additional insight

Among other notable findings were the types of conviction records that would disqualify candidates from employment. Among them, 88% of respondents would disqualify an applicant with a felony for a violent crime, and 82% would do so for someone with a felony for theft or a crime related to dishonesty.

On the other end of the spectrum, only 8% would disqualify someone with a charge that didn’t result in a conviction, only 15% for minor infractions or driving offenses and 35% for a misdemeanor drug offense. In some situations, like in the case of driving or drug-related misdemeanors, the candidates may be disqualified because of the nature of the job they’re applying for (those that might involve driving or access to medications, for example).

When given a list of options that might make a company more likely to hire someone with a “troubling criminal conviction,” 46% mentioned a certificate of rehabilitation issued by a court or legal agency. Twenty-three percent said indemnification or other safe harbor relief from negligent hiring claims, such as The Federal Bonding Program.

Six percent said a tax credit, which could be the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, a federal tax credit that employers who hire members of certain hard-to-hire groups can take advantage of. While some employers would consider these options, 41% said that nothing would make them more likely to hire candidates with troubling criminal records.

When asked how far back employers go in their criminal records search, 41% go more than seven years, 38% go six to seven years, 13% go four to five years, and 8% go three years or less.

For more details, download the entire report at the EmployeeScreenIQ website.

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

San Francisco Bay Area group delivers doula training program

Linda Jones, co-director of the The East Bay Community Birth Support Project's doula training program.

Linda Jones, co-director of the The East Bay Community Birth Support Project’s doula training program.

In a unique program that may be the only one of its type in the nation, The East Bay Community Birth Support Project is training formerly incarcerated women and women of color to become doulas.

For the uninitiated, a doula – from the ancient Greek meaning a woman who serves – is someone who provides physical and emotional support to a woman before, during and after she gives birth or offers the same services postpartum. A doula’s role is to make her client feel safe, comfortable and confident in the birth process by caring for her needs and helping her understand the process.

Although still not widely known, the doula profession is growing to cater to an increasing number of women who want a more personalized birth experience.

The idea for the doula-training program initially came from The Birth Justice Project, a San Francisco Bay Area organization of volunteer doulas who provide doula care and women’s health education to women in the San Francisco County Jail and local residential addiction recovery programs.

Although the original plan was to train eight formerly incarcerated women, the organizers soon realized that if the program only included those who had been in prison or jail, those women wouldn’t be able to keep their record private. So early on The Birth Justice Project partnered with Black Women Birthing Justice on a program that begins July 12 and includes eight formerly incarcerated women and eight women of color.

The training program details

The program consists of 24 hours of birth doula training during four days this month and a weekend of post-partum training in August. Each participant is being paired with a mentor doula who will attend their first few births with them. The mentors commit to five births, which can take place in a hospital, a birthing center or a home – in all about a six-month commitment.

“We hope our group of trainees can become a collective, and work together so they’re not all constantly on call, says Darcy Stanley, co-coordinator of the Birth Justice Project who is involved in the doula training program.

In addition to training doulas in the actual work they will do, the program is designed to help the participants learn how to market themselves and run a business as a doula.

“This training is not just about how birth works. The reason we’re doing the training is so when they’re done they can put together a business and know how it works,” says Linda Jones, cofounder of Black Women Birthing Justice who is also involved in the doula program.

“That’s why we’re having mentors. They can go with them and talk with clients and show how that works.”

The two women are talking to county programs and a couple of birth centers, as well as doulas about job placement potentials for the participants once they graduate from the program.

And Jones feels it’s especially important to train more women of color to be doulas.  “We want to have our community know that there’s such a thing as a doula and that we’re there for them,” she says.

“If they (women of color) happen to have a doula, it’s a volunteer, 20-something white girl. Our focus is to get more people of color wanting to be doulas. In order to have the knowledge and the inclination to do something, you have to have someone who looks like you doing it.”

And for the formerly incarcerated, being a doula might work out to an excellent career, free of job interviews and dealing with “the box.”

Although the first class is full and funding for this round only lasts until next April, Jones and Stanley are looking at how they might get future funding to keep the project going. They would ultimately like to bring in Spanish-speaking doulas – and possibly Vietnamese and Chinese as well.

For more information on the training program, visit the East Bay Community Birth Project’s page on the Birth Project’s website. To learn more about the doula profession, check out Dona International, a membership organization for professional doulas.

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Clean Slate reveals secrets of how ex-felons can find jobs

clean-slate-206x300In his book “Clean Slate: 9 Secrets to Getting a Job, Even With a Felony,” Michael Lewiston, a convicted felon who served time in prison, gives some excellent advice in an easy-to-follow format that can be read and digested in an afternoon.

His “secrets” or tips include:

  • Decide what you really want to do. Become a specialist in something and look for businesses that “don’t quite fit the mold” – he uses repossession companies as an example – or that tend to be more supportive of ex-offenders.
  • It’s not really about you. It’s about them. Concentrate on what you can do to help the employer.
  • Use LinkedIn and Facebook as tools to help you in your job search.
  • Reach out to friends and family to ask for help, and ask them to forward your resume or JIST card to their contacts. Those contacts might send it to their contacts – and soon lots of people will have your resume.
  • Create a well thought out story – what we at Jails to Jobs call a turnaround talk – to explain your situation, but save it until you’re convinced they like you and may want to hire you.
  • Always remember that you are not your past.

Additional insight from author Michael Lewiston

Impressed with what he had to say, we interviewed the author of this book and received more useful tips and advice that we wanted to be sure to share:

What is your background, and why did you decide to write Clean Slate?

When I was looking for work and my record was holding me back from gaining employment, I realized that most people don’t understand what it really means to be a felon. My crime was financial, non-violent, non-drug related, and yet I was lumped in with people’s worst, TV-fueled imaginations of what a felon could be.

Because of that I was repeatedly told that it was too risky to hire me. Other people thought of themselves as good compared to felons or anyone who spent time in prison. They didn’t want to hear about rehabilitation or second chances because that would change the story they were telling themselves. They wanted retribution instead – they wanted vengeance.

Getting someone who wants vengeance to hire you is no small task. My first job getting out I worked with a man who understood the situation and had a different mindset. But if I wanted to get better employment, I would have to fight this public need for retribution in addition to looking better than the other applicants. I learned some useful secrets along the way and wanted to get that information out there where others can use it to better their lives.

Which of the nine secrets you mention in the book do you think are the most important?

The very first secret is not really a secret but it’s the most important. Decide what you want! If you don’t know where you are going, or are willing to settle for anything (which is necessary sometimes I understand), you aren’t going to get where you need to be. More focus and drive will lead to more success. Also, No. 7, “Do Something With Your Time,” humanizes someone with a record and helps make them more likable.

Have you come up with any more secrets since you wrote this book?

The best way to get ahead more quickly is to learn new skills, and there has never a better time to do that in the history of the world than right now. I would recommend learning how to code – for free I might add – online with websites like codecademy.com. The Internet is the future, and code runs the Internet. Learn a skill that will be valuable for years to come, and your employment will be easier to come by.

What do you think is the main obstacle (besides their record) that ex-offenders face when looking for a job?

Besides the spirit of retribution as opposed to a spirit of rehabilitation that many employers feel, I think a huge obstacle is an ex-offender’s attitude toward work and how people SHOULD treat them. An attitude of failure will make any job search grind to a halt. Also, not taking extra care of our appearance is a huge setback. People judge a book by its cover, and if you don’t look like what the employer thinks a felon looks like, then that’s just one less obstacle for you to overcome.

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Baltimore nonprofit teaches tattoo cover up techniques

Adult male adjusting necktie.A Baltimore nonprofit has come up with a method for dealing with the problem of visible tattoos. And they discovered it in a totally serendipitous way.

It all began a couple of years ago, when the Ex-Offender Mentoring Academy and Training Center at Living Classrooms Foundation decided to work on family reunification with fathers who were newly released from prison. They decided to use face painting as a way to bring the dads together with their kids.

“We found the face painter and we were talking. And she said makeup was good for everything. It even covers up tattoos,” said Howard Wicker, the center’s director. “It covers up everything no matter what the skin color.”

She said that they could wear makeup over their tattoos when they went to interviews. Wicker thought it was a good idea and asked her if she would be willing to come in and teach his guys, almost entirely African-American, how to do it. She agreed.

At about the same time, Wicker had found a plastic surgeon who was doing tattoo removal procedures on a handful of his clients. But it wasn’t working out too well.

“After two sessions they wouldn’t come back. The surgeon said it was too much money invested on the front end and then they wouldn’t come back,” Wicker said. We tried about four people but just weren’t successful getting it done. The makeup is a much easier way to do it.”

And now the program has two makeup artists who come in on a regular basis to teach the clients how to cover up visible tattoos with makeup. The classes are about once a month on Saturdays.

“Our staff is on the lookout for someone with tattoos that jump out at you. Guys are putting tattoos right in the middle of their forehead,” Wicker said. “We ask them to attend a session, and most of them do.” Those who do are all ages, but the average client is 30 years old, he added.

Wicker said it shouldn’t be too difficult for organizations to find a makeup artist to do the same thing for their clients. He recommends contacting a local playhouse – like those found in every city and even some small towns – to find out the name of and contact info for their makeup artist. Every playhouse has one. Contact that person and ask them if they’d be interested in teaching ex-offenders with tattoos how to cover them up.

The makeup artists’ skills are really being used, according to Wicker, and they are very much appreciated, because what they do can make a big difference in the lives of formerly incarcerated people who are looking for work.

His organization buys the makeup but asks the guys they give it to to use it sparingly – only for interviews.

Individuals who can’t find a class at an organization can visit a professional makeup artist for a private session or learn how to cover up a tattoo with makeup by searching online, where articles on the subject, YouTube how-to videos and makeup recommendations can be found.

You can check out a couple of these instructional videos. One is done by a trainer at Napoleon Perdis Makeup Academy.  Another was created by an Australian who goes by the name of Nibbles. And they’re both pretty impressive.

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

St. Louis Federal Bank highlights best job search technique

Compass ConceptIn a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis,  James D. Eubanks, research analyst, and David G. Wiczer, economist, set out to figure out why, in spite of the fact the recession ended five years ago, the level of unemployment remains high. They wanted to see if it had anything to do with the techniques job seekers were using to look for employment.

And, in fact, it did. What they found revealed some interesting, but not particularly surprising, conclusions that were highlighted in an article published early this year.

The two researchers analyzed data gathered between 1976 and 2011 from the Current Population Survey, a survey of households conducted monthly by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In this survey, unemployed respondents are asked “What have you been doing in the last four weeks to find work?” and given a variety of choices as answers.

According to the survey results and authors’ calculations, the most popular job search method was contacting employers directly which was used by 65.7% of respondents. The second most popular method was answering ads, done by 25.8%, and contacting public employment agencies, done by 22.5%. Because job seekers could use more than one method, the figures total more than 100%.

Not only was contacting employers the most popular method, but it also was more effective than any of the others. More effective than employment agencies. More effective than networking with friends and relatives.

Again based on the Current Population Survey and authors’ calculations, they estimated the probability that a job seeker would gain employment using the various methods. During the first month of unemployment, the probability that those who contact employers directly will find a job is 46%. The probability for those placing or answering ads is 42% and networking with friends or relatives, 40%.

As time progresses, the probability that one method will work better than another gradually converges, and after one year they’re all about 20% effective, with only roughly a 2% difference from each other.

What you can do

This study once again confirms what we, at Jails to Jobs, have found to be the most effective job search technique – contacting hiring managers directly.

We recommend putting together a list of 100 employers who have the types of jobs you might be interested in. You can set boundaries like how far you’re willing to commute and the size of company you want to work for.

But don’t ignore the smaller employers. Depending on the type of work you do, you may want to concentrate on them. Companies with fewer than 250 employees hire nearly 75% of all workers in the U.S., and their hiring managers may be easier to get in touch with, since small companies are often less bureaucratic.

The list you compile should have the name of the company, its address, telephone number and the name of the hiring manager for the company or the department you would like to work in, if you can find it. Department managers, who usually function as the hiring managers, are sometimes listed on company websites or you might be able to find them by searching LinkedIn.

Pick up the phone

After you have your list together, the next thing to do is pick up the phone and call.

If you don’t have a name, tell the person who answers the phone, “I am trying to find out the name of the person who hires in (department). I want to send them a letter. How do you spell their last name? What is their official title?”  If they’re not sure, ask if they have a company directory handy and can look it up. Also try to get the person’s email address if at all possible, by saying “By the way, what’s that person’s email address?

Wrong extensions can often help direct you to the right person. Dial extensions starting with 1 or 2 and ask who is the hiring manager for whatever department you would  like to work in.

Avoid human resource departments. They support hiring managers during the selection process but don’t typically decide who gets hired. Their primary purpose is to screen you out.

Call – email – call – call

If the hiring manager answers the phone, you can give them a 15-second scripted message selling your strengths and saying you would like to get together to find out about opportunities at their company. Even if there are no job openings, it’s good to meet with a hiring manager, because they may know of a job in a different department or another company or know about you for the next time a job comes up in their department.

These days, however, most busy people can be difficult to get a hold of, so you will probably be leaving a voice-mail message. When you do, tell them you’ll send them an email – if you’ve been able to get their email address.

When you send the email explaining that you would like to set up an appointment to come talk to them, also include a resume, if you have a good one, or a JIST card, which just has your contact information and a short listing of your abilities and strengths. A JIST card is perfect for someone who has gaps in their resume or doesn’t have an extensive history of employment.

If you don’t hear back from them by phone or email in a couple of days, call them again. If you don’t hear the second time, wait for a week and try once more. If that doesn’t work, move on and continue calling others on your list.

Just walk in

Visit any employer, factory or office that interests you. Be friendly to the receptionist or whoever you meet when you walk in and ask to speak to the hiring manager of the department you’re interested in. It would be best if you called ahead to ask who that would be, so you can ask for that person by name.

If they’re willing to meet with you, talk to them about your skills and ask them for advice. If the hiring manager isn’t there, ask to talk to someone else in the department. Just have a brief chat, about five minutes. This may establish a valuable contact. When you call the hiring manager later, you can mention you met their colleague and are interested in learning more about working at their company.

A numbers game

Looking for a job is a numbers game. The more contacts you make, the more people you call, the more resumes or JIST cards you send out and the more interviews you go on, the greater your chance of finding someone who will be happy to hire you. If you look at it this way, you’ll be more likely to keep on calling than to get discouraged. Experts say that it is actually your job search activity that will sustain your spirit and keep you going until you find a job.

We’d love to hear success stories from people who used this technique. Please send them to info@jailstojobs.org.

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Job club can help put those in reentry on path to employment

iStock_000023019685_SmallA job club is an excellent way to help those coming out of prison or jail as they embark on a path to employment. These clubs meet regularly, offering members a chance to discuss the challenges they face in their job search and hold each other accountable.

Job clubs can be particularly beneficial for those in reentry. Few may know this better than Sue Eastman, who developed a job club for that population for SE Works, a Portland, Ore., nonprofit that deals with workforce development. As Portland’s only workforce center serving those in reentry, the organization gets a lot of foot traffic, including people from a local halfway house.

Eastman’s organization’s job club meets four times per week, and members must come to at least two of the meetings. Between 10 and 30 people show up at each one, which lasts from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Employers also come to the meetings on occasion to talk about job searching and do mock interviews. Such nearby businesses as a new store may also come to hire employees.

What makes it different

Eastman started the job club two years ago and says, “It’s not that different from other job clubs, except for  learning to deal with “the box.” (the box on application forms asking if the applicant has ever been convicted). But actually it is different in many ways.

Those who have been locked up for long periods may not be proficient with such technology as computers and cell phones that is essential for many jobs, for example.

Eastman had inherited a curriculum, but it was old and referred to people as ex-felons. “I try to get people to not look backward but to look forward,” she says. “You can’t call them ex-felons. Call them job seekers.”

Although she has moved to a new position, Eastman still sometimes leads SE Works’ job club. At the beginning of each meeting she asks them what they need from her that day and let’s them make the decision about what to discuss.

The most difficult thing they need to learn is not how to fill out the forms or even talk about their backgrounds but how to talk the language of the employer. If you can’t talk the language of the employer, the employer can’t relate to you, she says.

Ten tips for a better job club experience

Easton offers 10 tips for job club members and their professional instructor leaders:

  1. Ask them to do a Google search on themselves, then post some really nice pictures of themselves on Flikr. That way when someone tags them those really nice photos will appear on the first page and the mug shot will come out on the second page.
  2. Have an instructor who is knowledgeable enough to drop what they intended to do and do something else. Also the instructor shouldn’t throw too much at the job club members. They have so much going on in their lives.
  3. Do “a week in the life of” and let them sit down and figure out what else they have to do that week and where the job search fits in. It you tell them it takes 40 hours a week they’re going to lose it.
  4. Once they get a survival or transition job, don’t push them to go to the next step too quickly. They often fear that if they have to move on they won’t make it. Life is like Simon Says. Take two giant steps forward, three baby steps backward, and they will eventually get to the other side.
  5. Make collages. Many of them are visual people. Tell them now that they have a job and their first paycheck to cut out pictures of what happens when they have that job. They can open a bank account, maybe buy a car, get some medical taken care of.
  6. Play games like Job Search Jeopardy with fake money. Say “I’ll take resumes for 200.” They have a great time, learn something and get little prizes.
  7. Make sure to put their past where it belongs. If someone was convicted 20 years ago, they’re not the same person they were. Don’t let their past define them. They’re not a bank robber today.
  8. Use the rearview mirror and the front windshield of a car exercise. Tell them to write everything about who they are on that rear view mirror. Put it away because they’re not going to look at the past anymore. They never have a chance to make a new beginning, but they can make a new end.
  9. Then give them a windshield and tell them to write down everything they see ahead. That’s their new beginning. You’re in a wretched car and it needs new tires. Then we get the bumper on. You drive down a road and it’s a dead end and you have to turn around and come back. Everybody has that ability to move forward, but you have to learn how to do it.
  10. Play red flag. Write all barriers to employment except criminal background on the red flags. Then post these on a board and figure out what you can do to overcome them.

It’s all about learning to be a job seeker.

Check with your local American Job Center to see if they have a job club for those in reentry or know of one in the area where you live.

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Exoffenders.net creates free WordPress tutorial

unnamedTo develop a skill that is in high demand and that can result in paid employment would solve one major problem many formerly incarcerated people face after leaving jail or prison.

Erik (who prefers not to reveal his last name for privacy reasons) is taking the exoffenders.net website he created to help ex-felons search for a job one step further. He’s putting together a set of lessons to teach people how to build websites using WordPress.

His story is not unique. He got into drugs at age 17 and became a convicted felon by age 20. A year before his prison term was up he was transferred to a community reentry program with a supportive staff, which he said changed his life.

After leaving prison and moving to Ohio, Erik couldn’t find any but the lowest level work at Wendy’s. The “box” got in the way, and hiring managers couldn’t look beyond the fact that he was an ex-felon.

But that challenge nurtured his entrepreneurial spirit, and he became a freelance web developer to help support himself. He hopes to help other ex-offenders learn to support themselves in the same way, since website development is a skill that can pay a decent wage. “It’s a field where your experience is more important than your background,” Erik says.

It’s not only a great skill to be able to do as a job, but it can also help anyone who is putting together a small business create and maintain their own website for free.

The lessons are both in written and video form, with the information very clearly explained so most people will be able to create a WordPress site by following the tutorials. Erik now has two lessons up on exoffenders.net and will add more soon, creating enough information for someone to be able to build their own website.

“After that, the lessons will cover other things that people need to know about, like hosting, search engine optimization, marketing, building backlinks and getting into ways of monetizing it (the website),” he says.

Erik is hoping to establish a broader curriculum, drawing in other people with complementary skills. He’s lined up someone to teach a class in how to make money online and is looking for volunteers to create more courses.

The ultimate goal, he says, “is to have a better life. I can’t really force people to take the classes. I can’t hold their hand, but I can try my best to teach them skills that they can take into the job market.”

 

Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.