The Manufacturing Institute helps employers establish second chance hiring practices

second chance hiringIn a partnership with philanthropic community Stand Together and with a $600,000 grant from the Charles Koch Institute, The Manufacturing Institute is working to expand second chance hiring among manufacturing companies.

The organization is busy creating resources and will offer expertise to those who are interested in being second chance employers. These resources will include webinars and roundtable discussions, leadership events, case studies and original research.

The institute believes that helping people with criminal records find good jobs is not just the right thing to do but a way to strengthen the manufacturing industry for years to come. And a means of dealing with an expected shortage of workers.

Manufacturing companies face workforce shortages

Two studies confirm the threat of serious workforce shortages facing the manufacturing sector:

  • The 2021 Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute Talent study, which surveyed more than 800 U.S. manufacturers between December 2020 and February 2021, found that the manufacturing industry expects to have 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030.
  • The Manufacturing Institute Small and Medium-sized Manufacturers Survey, released in February 2021, highlighted the fact that manufacturers find it difficult to attract and retain enough workers. More than 77% of the participating companies reported that they expect to continue struggling to identify talent in 2021 and beyond.
Webinar highlights second chance hiring

As part of its efforts, The Manufacturing Institute produced a webinar on second chance hiring in June. The webinar brought together a group experienced in the practice to share their experiences.

In her opening remarks, Carolyn Lee, The Manufacturing Institute’s executive director, highlighted some of the issues that the industry is facing. She pointed out that:

  • Attracting and retaining workers is one of the top challenges for manufacturers.
  • Manufacturing faces a talent shortage, with 700,000 manufacturing jobs open in March 2021.
  • Finding the right talent is now 36% more difficult than in 2018, the last time the talent survey was conducted.
Workforce is declining

Jeff Korzenik, chief investment strategist for Fifth Third Bank and author of Untapped Talent: How Second Chance Hiring Works for Your Business and the Community, brought up the problem of the decline in workforce growth that has been happening since the 1980s.

This is exacerbated by the fact that the fertility rate is declining. (It’s currently 1.78 child per woman, and you need 2.1 children to replace the current population.)  Also, as a result of the Covid pandemic older workers have left the workforce for good, and women left to take care of their children during the pandemic, he points out.

At the same time, Korzenik says, we have a very large population of people who have been touched by the criminal justice system and are eager to find employment.

19 million Americans have felony conviction

“Nineteen million Americans have a felony conviction on their record,” he says. “They’re unable to participate to the fullest extent of their talents because of barriers, whether hard barriers like licensing restrictions or the stigma against workers who have this type of background.

And many potential workers in this population have various types of skills gaps. Sometimes it’s hard skills, sometimes it’s soft skills and sometimes it may be things like easy access to credit, housing or transportation.

If employers can find the tools to close those gaps, they’ll get an exceptionally good employee and a superior workforce, Korzenik says.

Although there are several steps involved, if Korzenik could recommend only one action that someone who is considering instituting second chance hiring should take, it is this: Visit another employer who is already doing it and learn from them.

“Most employers are willing to share their experience and expertise and realize that it’s in the benefit of all of us to grow our workforce and offer opportunities to live up to our aspiration to be the land of opportunity for all,” Korzenik says.

Finding success in second chance hiring

Cassi Zumbiel, director of workforce initiatives of The Manufacturing Institute, outlines two of the ways to success in second chance hiring. One of these is that manufacturers should partner with a community organization to identify who is ready for employment.

The other is to create an internal system that supports individuals with barriers. Your local Workforce Development Board may be able to assist you in doing this, and The Manufacturing institute will, as well, Zumbiel says. She points out that her organization is happy to supply resources and connect people with second chance employers in their area to visit.

The rest of the webinar consisted of  people representing employers, nonprofits and consulting firms, giving another side of the second chance hiring equation and some good recommendations, as well

One of these, Matt Joyce, partner at Envoy Growth Advisory and collaborator at Levelset, an initiative that connects employers with workers who have previous justice involvement, spoke of the benefits of being a second chance employer.

Many people want to see second chance hiring

A lot of employers recognize that people are looking for criminal justice reform and second chance hiring in both the places that they shop at and where they work, he says. What we’ve seen in the polling, is that employees want to work with a company that cares about fair chance hiring and about the way their company interacts with the community. It’s a great message to send to your employees.

One concern to supporters of second chance hiring is the look-back period used by background check providers.

“A lot of employers are looking back in perpetuity to something they (candidates) might have done in their teens that isn’t really true now,” Joyce says. “For candidates whose conviction was more than two or three years ago, the likelihood of reoffence is very low. So we strongly encourage employers to limit that look-back period to what is a relative period of time.”

Focus on retention before hiring

Another webinar participant, Alex Love, is founder and CEO of Alex Love Consulting and, like Joyce, a collaborator at Levelset. Her advice is to encourage employers to start thinking about retention before they hire people. That way they can have a processes in place to ensure the success of reentry employees.

“Do they (the employers) have the communication skills? Are they aware of collateral consequences?” she asks rhetorically. Her organization often trains managers so they’ll understand what they may be facing with employees who are in reentry.

Managers will no doubt find that putting the effort into recruiting and dealing with employees in reentry a good investment.

“This candidate pool has been an untapped resource for decades and decades,” Joyce says.

“But we’re starting to look at this candidate pool much more as an asset than a liability. And we’re realizing that it can be a great group to focus your recruitment efforts on.”

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