U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation report highlights second-chance employment

U.S. Chamber of Commerce FoundationWhen the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation issues a special report on second chance hiring, you know that the issue has entered the mainstream.

This summer the foundation released “America Working Forward, Hidden Workforce.” In the introduction to the 44-page report, Carolyn Cawley, the Chamber’s president, said, “(The issue is) important because right now – for the first time ever – there are more open jobs than people without jobs. Can ex-offenders help fill this gap? Employers are beginning to think so, and they have a lot of questions about how to engage this “hidden workforce.”

The foundation spent a year getting to know people and organizations that are establishing innovative approaches to reentry throughout the United States in order to help answer those questions. Some of these organizations are already familiar names to us. Others are new.

Organizations and businesses it highlighted
  • Dave’s Killer Bread in Milwaukee, Oregon was founded by David Dahl, who has a record of his own. Dave’s Killer Bread is one of the largest bakers of organic bread in the nation. And the majority of its 230 employees are formerly incarcerated individuals. The company operates its own foundation that helps other companies become second chance employers.
  • Edwins, a nonprofit upscale restaurant in Cleveland, runs a prerelease program in 13 Ohio prisons and a six-month training program to teach formerly incarcerated individuals how to operate a restaurant. More than 400 people have graduated from the organization’s pre-release program and more than 285 have been trained at the restaurant.
  • Café Momentum, another nonprofit restaurant, trains Dallas-area young people who are leaving juvenile detention to work in the restaurant business. Those who complete the organization’s comprehensive, paid 12-month internship program are offered a job with one of its community partners. Between 60 percent and 70 percent of Café Momentum’s employees are young workers with juvenile records.
  • Conbody was created by Coss Marte, who was arrested nine times between the ages of 13 to 27. As an overweight inmate, he lost 70 lbs. while incarcerated – through exercise within his cell – and helped his fellow prisoners get in shape as well. After release he created a prison-style fitness boot camp that hires formerly incarcerated trainers to teach fitness classes. His goal goes beyond mere fitness training, however, to bring young professionals together with people who’ve been in prison.
  • Late last year, Google announced that it was giving nonprofit The Last Mile a $2 million grant. The organization, which was founded in 2010 to teach computing coding to inmates in San Quentin prison outside San Francisco, now operates programs in five states – California, Oklahoma, Kansas, Indiana and Michigan – with plans to have 17 programs in six states by the end of this year.
  • As part of Arizona’s Second Chance program, private employers have been setting up training programs in three of the state’s prisons for jobs that are needed. Among these employers are members of the Central Arizona Homebuilders Association, who are teaching inmates construction skills that are currently in great demand. Inmate trainees must be within 60 days of release, and 50 percent of those who complete the training get jobs once they’re out.

In addition to the above-mentioned report, other resources may be found at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation website. These include all of the organizations and businesses highlighted and other second chance resources.

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