Each year, approximately 700,000 people finish their time in prison and reenter communities across the United States. They are seeking a second chance – perhaps even their first – to contribute to society, improve their lives, and help others. At the same time, there is a massive skills gap – 7 million open jobs, just waiting for people with the matching knowledge and experience.
“As managers and supervisors, we need to figure out and identify what are transferable skills in everyone, what are those talents, and how do we enable them? It’s no different for people with criminal records,” said Jenny Kim, deputy general counsel, Koch Industries, at a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation event.
Through the Getting Back to Work initiative and other efforts, Kim said, businesses have a lot to learn from one another, and have much to gain from considering all applicants.
This is a challenge for all American businesses, but Koch Industries has long believed that it is important to evaluate all potential employees based on their potential and not on their past. In January, Koch partnered with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) on the Getting Talent Back to Work initiative, providing a toolkit to other businesses as they consider expanding the pool of potential employees to those with criminal records. Groups representing more than 50% of the U.S. workforce have already pledged their support.
“There’s this huge ecosystem of businesses who have done a lot of things worth thinking about” in implementing their own systems, she said. “Reach out to them.”
Others joining Kim at the event included:
- Tony Lee, vice president of editorial, SHRM
- Jeffrey Brown, president and CEO, Brown’s Super Stores, Inc.
- Coss Marte, founder and CEO, ConBody
- Heidi E. Washington, director, Michigan Department of Corrections
- Piper Kerman, author of "Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison"
- Michael Carney, vice president, Emerging Issues
- Casey Carringer, director of clinical engagement, Ballad Health
- Brandon Chrostowski, CEO and founder, EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute
- Rob Gifford, executive vice president, National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation
- Joe Kenner, vice president of programs & partnerships, Greyston Bakery
- Laura Evans Manatos, president and founder, Laura Evans Media
- Jason Pritchard, certified peer recovery specialist, Ballad Health
- Lizzy Simmons, vice president, government relations and workforce development, National Retail Federation
- Connie Wilhelm, CEO, Home Builders Association of Central Arizona
Read the stories of the people and programs that have helped formerly incarcerated individuals find employment in the latest issue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s America Working Forward magazine.