Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When an Education Hurts a Criminal Seeking Work

Skills, not a degree, will make the difference in future job opportunities for criminals.
Going to school can help to acquire the skills needed, and we often feel better about ourselves when we complete the educational requirements for a college degree, but many employers still won’t hire someone with that “high” a level of training.

Case in point, the January 21st post I wrote, titled - Without Hope... What Happens?? (Linked here: http://americancriminal.net/without-hope-what-happens). The woman in the story, Georgia Irwin, had a law degree and an MBA, but no one would hire her. Seem unbelievable? Then read the story. Or even part of it. The point is this: there are companies that could have used her experience and education in business and legal counsel, but were unwilling to hire her.

To be clear, in an interview I completely disclose my crime to the hiring manager, even if they do not ask. So here are a few quick scenarios from my personal life to help illustrate the frustration we-criminals go through:

  • When a perspective employer says I am the best candidate they have interviewed for the position; then HR denies my employment as “against policy to hire a felon”.
  • When an interviewer says he can quit spending his time searching to find the right candidate because I am precisely what he is looking for, and recognizes my hunger for another chance; but again HR denies.
  • When a month after being hired, the HR director decides to change the existing policy which currently prohibits hiring a felon with monetary or sexual crimes, to instead include all felonies, and that my record no longer allows employment there; so I was terminated - regardless of the success my manager witnessed.
  • When a private college acknowledges the experience I have as an adult educator as fitting their need, however politely notifies me they “will not now, nor any time in the future, consider me for a position”.
  • And although a previous employer had no policy that prohibits hiring a felon, yet the HR director is unable to agree because of fear of reprisal from previous candidates who may have been felons, and were thus not considered.

These positions each required a college degree, and one even an advanced degree, for which I have both. So would you suppose that having a degree can hurt, even when a company is “Felon-Friendly”?

  • Construction manager said he would not hire me because my education may become known, and it would put me at odds with the work supervisors because I may come across as “all-knowing”.
  • Retail store Manager: “we don’t need someone coming in here and telling us how to do our job better, and that’s what people will think you are doing.”

To revisit the purpose of this post: job skills in areas of high-demand will be the difference in whether many offenders will ever be considered for work. The areas I currently see most:

  1. Welding: there always seems to be a need for well trained welders with a certification.
  2. Road-Crews: while knowing nothing of the training required, I have read how the State Dept. of Transportation will see a 50% reduction of skilled workers on road-crews by 2014, and with the budget shortfalls the state faces there will be no new hires to replace them. Instead, the state plans to hire “independent” contractors to do the same work, thereby reducing costs.
  3. Creative-Development: any area of art, music, cooking, computer programming, or drafting & design, that requires a non-linear or rather an artistic ability. The work may not make one wealthy over night as most jobs are on a contingent basis(fee for service), but those who understand computer games can recognize the ability to write great code, or put together the miniature models for an architect’s design.

Can we find and advocate for the programs that help criminals get back to work by teaching the skills necessary to live productive lives?

Do we see that in helping “them”, we in turn help ourselves?

I believe in one God, maker of heaven and earth, and in His son - Jesus the Christ. I believe in His love and forgiveness, the ability to see beyond classifying labels, job titles, sins and crimes, to the person within who cries for hope, love, and purpose.

By working together, we can help “them” find forgiveness, and the gift of hope in a future with purpose.


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