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Finding New Labor with a New Start

Trying to fill over 200,000 new positions in the fiber industry over the next five years will require fresh approaches to finding talent. One solution may be looking for employees within the pool of 2 million people in the U.S. corrections system today. 

“This is also about matching two needs together,” said John Gabriel, Senior Advisor – External Affairs, Center for Employment Opportunities. “There are a tremendous amount of employers within our country that have open roles. They often struggle to meet the employment needs of their open roles. We have, to some degree historically, what has been an untapped population of individuals who are ready, willing, and able to fill those roles, both from a soft and hard skill standpoint.” 

Over 600,000 people get released from prison every year. These individuals need support to build careers and establish financial stability. Based in New York City, the Center for Employment Opportunities provides immediate, effective, and comprehensive employment services exclusively to individuals who have recently returned to everyday life from incarceration, providing a roadmap for participants to achieve a long-term goal of remaining attached to the legitimate workforce and maintaining their freedom.   

“People have different conceptions and, in some cases, misconceptions about what goes on during life of an individual in the carceral system,” said Gabriel. “The reality is it is an intensely rigorous environment that results in individuals having a life experience that can then galvanize them as individuals and make them a better and I’m going to repeat that  a better employee for an organization in part because they have gone through something that is arguably a very high-pressure situation. These are individuals who have successfully navigated the system and are out and are ready to rejoin society.” 

While in prison, inmates can increase their education through structured classwork and on-the-job training since inmates run everything from the library to the food system in the institution. In addition, they gain numerous soft skills in communication, problem-solving, the ability to work in a high-stress environment, and interpersonal skills that are transferrable to real-world positions along with formal training in vocational trades, technical skills, social services, and entrepreneurship.  

“All of the logistics, the ordering, the food preparation, the clothing, anything logistics-related within the confines of the prison is all run and managed by the inmate population,” said Gabriel. “That gives individuals a tremendous amount of exposure to fairly significant responsibilities that are directly in line with responsibilities associated with full-time employment outside.” 

To learn more about the untapped potential of formerly incarcerated individuals and what they could bring to the table of your business, tune in to the latest Fiber for Breakfast.