The manufacturing industry is starving for workers. With 500,000 positions open currently and an expected 4 million more jobs to become available during the next 10 years, the sector is booming and thus clamoring to find talent to keep up with demand. But manufacturers are struggling to fill these roles due to a lack of interest, a widening skills gap, and negative preconceptions of the nature of manufacturing work (i.e., labor-intensive, dangerous, and dirty).
The solution to this hiring hindrance may lie in an often-overlooked segment of the population: applicants with criminal records. As part of a movement called “second chance hiring”, people with a criminal past have the chance to start over and help keep the economy running.
Between 70 million and 100 million Americans have a criminal record, a barrier that may prevent them from obtaining steady and reliable employment.
The Manufacturing Institute (MI)—the workforce development and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)—has partnering with the Charles Koch Institute to encourage companies to explore this talent pool and expand their hiring opportunities. A grant from this partnership can help provide manufacturing employers with the resources and education they may need to help jobseekers overcome institutional barriers to finding jobs.
Obtaining steady employment upon being released from prison has been shown to help decrease the likelihood of recidivism among formerly incarcerated workers and increase the chances for successful reintegration into the community.
“If we truly want to reduce recidivism and increase public safety, all while empowering those returning to our communities to contribute at their fullest potential, we need to expand second chance hiring opportunities,” said Derek Johnson, Executive Director of the Charles Koch Institute.
The manufacturing sector is currently facing a shortage of skilled workers. A recent study conducted by MI and Deloitte revealed this skills gap could lead to as many as 2 million unfilled positions in the next 10 years. On a national scale, this could cost the U.S. economy as much as $1 trillion in lost gross domestic product.
“Second chance hiring gives businesses an opportunity to welcome highly motivated, engaged, productive, and loyal new team members that may otherwise be overlooked,” said Carolyn Lee, Executive Director of MI.
Second chance applicants may have received training in certain manufacturing skills while incarcerated, allowing employers to forgo lengthy introductory training periods and put new hires to work more quickly.
The manufacturing industry is notorious for high turnover, but companies that have employed second chance hiring have found that turnover rates have decreased and productivity and retention rates have increased.
A final benefit comes from the Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit, a credit that is granted to organizations that hire workers who have faced significant barriers to employment.
To make second chance hiring a part of your recruitment process, reach out to local social service agencies to learn how to get connected to this population. In one example, Cincinnati Works—a job readiness organization in Ohio—helps reformed convicts get driver’s licenses, fill out job applications, and more. Informing these types of organizations about job openings at your facility can provide a direct link between you and a new applicant pool.
Once hired, ensure new workers can get to work each ay by offering benefits like transportation stipends as well as childcare and healthcare.
Finally, consider joining companies like Home Depot, Starbucks, and Wal-Mart in removing questions about criminal backgrounds from your screening process.
Second chance hiring is an opportunity for you to show that your company values talented and hard workers of all backgrounds. According to Lee, “This is not only the right thing to do for our businesses, but it’s also the right thing to strengthen our communities.”
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