July 21, 2024

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Second chance: Jobs program begins for people with criminal records

Second chance: Jobs program begins for people with criminal records

A London employment agency is supercharging its efforts to get people with criminal records working.

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A London employment agency is supercharging its efforts to get people with criminal records working.

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Calibre Recruitment launched a job training and career coaching program for people with criminal records with help from $590,000 in funding from the province.

“Over the years, we’ve had so many high-potential candidates with a criminal background that were being overlooked because of it,” Bonnie Macklin, president of Calibre Recruitment, said. “Sometimes they don’t even apply because they don’t have the confidence to do so.

“We’ve always had the mindset that everyone deserves a second chance and that’s why we proposed the Bridging the Skills Gap project. We were super ecstatic when we were awarded the funds.”

The London region unemployment rate, the percentage of working-age people without jobs but actively looking for work, hit its lowest level on record in April at 4.4 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

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In a climate where employers are scrambling to find workers, they shouldn’t pass up candidates who are rebuilding their lives, said Tracy Tolton, vice-president of Calibre.

“There’s such a shortage of talent out there,” Tolton said. “We feel this is an untapped pool of candidates that can be utilized and we’re really excited to help them break into the job market.”

Calibre partnered with Fanshawe College’s corporate training solutions division to provide job training to jobseekers with criminal records.

The first three weeks of the program teaches basic employment skills, Macklin said. The fourth week prepares jobseekers for their field of interest. Calibre will focus on placing candidates in food and beverage processing, hospitality and manufacturing jobs.

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Calibre also connects candidates with employers and encourages businesses to take a second look at second-chance hires.

“People with non-violent offences or blips in their record, they’re often plagued by it. It’s such a barrier. We want to educate employers that a criminal record doesn’t have to define someone forever,” Tolton said.

“With the labour shortage, employers are going to have to start changing their mindset. We’re going to be working with people who are ready and making necessary changes and it could be a huge opportunity and a win-win for both workers and employers.”

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Calibre is recruiting participants and looking for businesses interested in hiring a candidate with a criminal past.

Calibre’s program is part of a $12 million provincial program to help people with criminal records to find jobs.

Improving the job prospects of people working to put their past behind them is not just the right thing to do, it’s necessary to address the labour shortage in Ontario, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said.

“It’s really about changing the conversation around second-chance hiring. We know employers in London and area are already doing this, but the fact is, we need more to step up,” he said.

McNaughton said about one million Ontarians have criminal records, which can decrease their chances of getting a second interview by 50 per cent.

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Having a criminal record also increases the chances of long-term poverty, he said, with about half of offenders relying on social assistance 15 years after their release from custody.

“My message to businesses has been to take a chance on someone and change their life. We have an opportunity, especially with the labour shortage, to seize the opportunity and give someone a second chance,” he said.

“There’s a huge advantage to businesses hiring people with criminal records. They’re dedicated. They want to contribute. I’ve heard all kinds of stories of people being given a second chance and they’re grateful and loyal to employers.”

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