As one of our strategic goals for 2016, PA CareerLink® York County is exploring ways to help those individuals re-entering the workforce whom have misdemeanors or felonies on their backgrounds. With our unemployment rate dropping in December to 3.9% for the York/Hanover area, 4.8% for the State and 5% nationally (data via Department of Labor and Industry Center for Workforce Information and Analysis), it’s time we look more closely to the untapped market of those citizens reentering our workforce from our county and state prison systems.
The JobGateway® system, used by PA CareerLinks® across the state, allows jobseekers to have access to job openings all across the state. Currently in York County, there are 634 job orders, and many of these orders have multiple positions that need to be filled. On the supply side of the labor market, approximately 2,000 inmates are released monthly in South Central PA and are eager to return to work. A recent article from the Central Penn Business Journal which speaks about seeking a match between millennials and skilled trades discusses the challenges our labor market faces as Baby Boomers are retiring from skilled positions, leaving an unmet need of skilled labor that will need to be filled by younger generations. With the prison system becoming overcrowded over the last decade or so, are returning citizens a potential un-tapped labor pool that can be trained and up-skilled to fill many of these middle-skilled jobs?
As part of our initiative to help returning citizens, PA CareerLink® York County is working with Representative Kevin Schreiber’s office, the City of York, the PA Bar Association, Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity and several other entities will be added as we plan for an Expungement Clinic Information Session to be held April 4th at Martin Library in York PA. This session will give individuals the opportunity to receive information about the expungement process and to possibly meet with a lawyer to determine if expungement is right for them and what the next steps would be. Participants will have an opportunity to speak with other community agencies to receive additional information on resources available as pertains to their situation such as housing, employment opportunities, resume writing, mental health and drug/alcohol support.
While building a career in workforce development over the past nearly 9 years, I have had the opportunity to watch the struggles of those jobseekers who were trying to secure employment, but time after time would find rejection due to a misdemeanor or an old felony. Since July 2015, I have had the opportunity as the Site Administrator of the PA CareerLink® York County, to see this from a different perspective.
As community agencies have reached out to me asking us, “What do you do as “Career Resource Center” to help returning citizens?,” I am excited about developing specialized reentry program services for our labor market in York. We continue to build strong partnerships with community agencies and employers – although we have much work in front of us, we believe that our regional labor market can begin to better leverage this untapped population as we build a region where opportunity for prosperity and growth exists for all.