Hiring Opportunities with Minnesota's Second Chance Workforce

 

April 13, 2022

Workforce Wednesday is an opportunity for Minnesota employers to come together and share their stories and strategies on how they're addressing current workforce challenges. These sessions take place the first Wednesday of every month. April's discussion focused on strategies for engaging with our Second Chance workforce, who are people with a criminal record. Here are some of the key takeaways we heard from our panel.

For employers interested in engaging with our second chance workforce, how did you get started?

Kurt Scepaniak – President/CEO, Horizon Roofing

• We have worked with people that have come out of incarceration and have records and I don't see a difference in how they are compared to somebody that doesn't have a record.

• Prior to COVID-19, we'd reached out to non-profits that were working with this population, like RISE, Hired and Goodwill since we currently don't have a direct pipeline to this workforce talent. We did some mock interviews within the prison to begin meeting with people.


Traci Tapani – Co-President, Wyoming Machine, Inc.

• When a former employee of mine went to work at the Department of Corrections he was involved with a training program and he'd asked me to join an employer advisory council to help give input from businesses on what training and skills were needed for former inmates once they were released. That allowed me to go visit the prison and tour the manufacturing facilities and meet people working in the programs. I think the passion the staff at DOC have around training people to be successful once they reenter society is really inspiring. I'm a person who doesn't like to base my beliefs on what I hear from others, I'd rather meet people and understand firsthand so I can form my own opinions. After having some of these experiences, it made me more aware of my staff within my company and I learned that I had quite a few people already from this population working for me that were adding success to my company.


How do you build an inclusive culture among your current employees that supports this second chance workforce as well?

Kurt Scepaniak – President/CEO, Horizon Roofing

• We just don't talk about it because I don't think it'd be right for somebody that's coming into our company that we broadcast to everyone that they're a former offender. Typically, the only way employees find out, is if that formerly incarcerated person brings it up on their own to coworkers. We've never heard any complaints from current employees and in fact, we'd already had some employees with records anyway.


Traci Tapani – Co-President, Wyoming Machine, Inc.

• Manufacturing has typically overall, been a predominantly white, male industry. We have been trying to diversify that workforce with not just former offenders, but also adding more women and others as well. We're willing to have those conversations about having an inclusive workforce, but we also aren't going to broadcast someone's background either.

As organizations that work with employers trying to hire people with criminal backgrounds, what have you observed?

Jeremiah Carter – Job Services Supervisor, CareerForce Systems Division

• I've seen an interest with employers outside of the manufacturing and construction industries looking to hire more from this untapped market. With the pandemic, I think it created more opportunities for this group of workers. One individual I'm currently working with was in prison for a financial-related crime. Once she was released, she couldn't find work in the banking industry, despite having years of experience in this area. After obtaining an interview from a bank, she wasn't hired after they learned of her past. She pushed back and shared with them resources available to protect employers against any theft-related charges and that reopened the conversation to hiring her so we're seeing an influx of these examples.


Jacquelyn Carpenter – VP of Business Development, Twin Cities R!SE

• I've witnessed a lot of conversations where processes and procedures are starting to be challenged with employers. I've been most inspired by Human Resources and executive leadership really looking at the hiring process and getting more creative and flexible on who and how they hire. We've learned some best practices from manufacturing and construction and it's all industries now wondering "how do we make those changes too and how can we learn from those best practices?". It's an exciting and inspiring time.


What strategies as an employer have been successful with attracting and retaining talent from our second chance workforce?

Kurt Scepaniak – President/CEO, Horizon Roofing

• We're still figuring it out, but before COVID we started a community outreach training from our two training centers in Waite Park and New Hope and we'd bring in people from the community, train them for five days for free and at the end of those five days we'd pick the best of the group.


Traci Tapani – Co-President, Wyoming Machine, Inc.

• Flexibility is the really the name of the game, no matter who you're hiring. Hiring people with different backgrounds means they might have different needs. In manufacturing we've always had rigid start and end times because that's how the industry has always worked. Now, I offer flexible schedules to people who may have issues with transportation or childcare so that their needs are met.


How do we approach employers who may still have or biases toward the second chance workforce?

Kurt Scepaniak – President/CEO, Horizon Roofing

• Having some sort of cheat sheet with the definitions and facts related to the second chance population would be helpful to employers who don't know or have time to research this part of the workforce.

Traci Tapani – Co-President, Wyoming Machine, Inc.

• Having strategies for employers on how to address their employees and any potential fear around hiring employees with a criminal record would be helpful.

Jeremiah Carter – Job Services Supervisor, CareerForce Systems Division

• I don't necessarily agree having a cheat sheet when it comes to hiring people with a criminal background, I think asking more questions with the individual on their situation and then connecting with the DOC directly for more information would be a better approach.


View a recording of April's session and other past sessions, plus view related resources you can download and use, on the Workforce Wednesday page on CareerForceMN.com.

 

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