New California law — Assembly Bill No. 2147 — helps inmate firefighters gain employment once released

inmate firefightersCalifornia’s inmate firefighters, who have risked their lives for little pay fighting some of the worst fires in the state’s history, will now upon release be able to gain employment in jobs, including firefighting, that require occupational licensing.

This comes thanks to California Assembly Bill No. 2147, sponsored by Assemblymember Eloise Reyes (D-San Bernardino) that was passed in the state’s assembly and senate on Aug 20. It covers inmates who successfully participated in the California Conservation (Fire) Camp Program or a county incarcerated individual hand crew.

Benefits under new law

With certain exceptions, including sex offenses and some violent felonies, the new law proclaims that those leaving prison:

  • Will be given court-ordered “early termination of probation, parole, or supervised release.”
  • Will “not be required to disclose the conviction on an application for licensure by any state or local agency.”
  • Will be able “to withdraw the plea of guilty (for their conviction) and enter a plea of not guilty.”

“Signing AB 2147 into law is about giving second chances,” Assemblymember Reyes says. “Rehabilitation without strategies to ensure the formerly incarcerated have a career, is a pathway to recidivism. We must get serious about providing pathways for those who show the determination and commitment to turn their lives around.”

AB 2147 offers new job opportunities

California is the first state in the nation to sign this type of law offering relief to previously incarcerated individuals who worked as inmate firefighters.

And it’s well deserved. According to the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation, there are about 2,200 inmate firefighters working at fire camps annually. And 250 of them are women. This year, however, there were about 500 fewer overall, due to the early release of some inmates because of the Coronavirus. According to San Francisco NPR affiliate KQED, the inmates receive between $2.90 and $5.12 per day, depending on their skill level, with an extra $1 per hour when they are deployed to an actual emergency.

AB 2147 allows those who participated in a state or county fire camp to apply for expungement upon release. As a result, they will be able to seek a variety of jobs, including those that require an occupational license.

Occupational licensing necessary for many jobs

In California nearly 200 occupations require licensing from one of the state’s 42 government departments and agencies. An estimated 2.5 million California workers (nearly 20% of the state’s workforce) need an occupational license to work. These include an EMT (emergency medical technician) license that most fire departments require of their firefighter candidates, a license that can be extremely difficult to acquire with a felony conviction.

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom wholeheartedly supported this legislation, as it will give thousands of “heroic” individuals who are incarcerated and also firefighters real opportunity and hope, knowing that they have the right to later work as a professional firefighter.

AB 2147 will become state law on Jan. 1, 2021.

A unique approach to handling a job interview over lunch

job interview over lunchA while back Shankar Vedantam, NPR’s social science correspondent, had an interesting segment on scientific research proving how eating the same food can bring people closer together. And it’s something you might want to consider if you’re having a job interview over lunch.

He interviewed Ayelet Fishback of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. She and a colleague ran a series of food-related experiments, including one in which a group of volunteers playing union members and managers were negotiating hourly wages.

The two members of each pair were either both given candy, both given salty snacks or one received candy and the other salty snacks. It turned out that when each was eating something different it took twice as many rounds of negotiations to make the wage decision than if they were both eating the same thing.

The researchers admit that the process is probably unconscious. They don’t exactly understand how it works but suspect that eating the same food creates trust and fosters cooperation.

This may be something to keep in mind when you get together for a job interview that involves a meal.

Important tips to keep in mind for a lunch interview

But then there are also many other things to do:

  • Prepare as you would for a normal interview, although often an invitation to a meal is the second or third interview, so you may have dealt with all the ordinary interview questions previously.
  • Either way, taking you to lunch is a chance for the employer to observe how you act in a social situation and get to know you informally. Make sure you plan ahead for some interesting things to talk about (along with the usual answers to typical interview questions). Try to stay clear of anything controversial, including political subjects. Also keep the conversation professional and be careful what you say in general.
  • Research the restaurant ahead of time to get an idea of the ambience and location. Study the menu and think about what you might like to order (in case you don’t want to order the same thing as the interviewer, although we suggest you do when possible). Also, if there’s something interesting you learned about the building it’s in or the food it serves, you can use that as a topic of conversation.
  • Arrange a meeting place preferably in front of the restaurant, so you won’t have trouble identifying the person you’re meeting with. And if you’ve never met them look for their photo online so they’ll be easier to recognize.
  • Dress professionally appropriate to the job you’ve applied for.
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes early.
  • Practice a power pose to boost your confidence.
  • Turn off your cell phone and don’t check it – not even once – during the meal.
  • Try to relax and enjoy yourself.
Make sure to mind your manners

Practice proper etiquette:

  • Don’t order the most expensive – or the cheapest – item on the menu.
  • Don’t order alcohol, even if your host does. Alcohol tends to loosen inhibitions, and you might say something you didn’t intend to.
  • Order something easy to eat.
  • Be polite to the waitstaff.
  • Wait until everyone receives their meal before you begin to eat.
  • Eat slowly, and don’t talk with your mouth full.
  • Make eye contact with the person interviewing you and others if more than one person comes.
  • Don’t forget your manners. Say “please” and “thank you.”
  • Try to eat everything, if possible, and never ask for a doggy bag.
  • When finished, put your knife and fork on the plate and carefully fold your napkin and place it beside the plate.
  • Let the host pick up the bill. You were invited.

Follow these rules, and your interview should be a success.

And don’t forget to follow up with a thank you note.