Aspire Spotlights Hiring Employees Out of Judicial System

By Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance | | 5.17.21

Aspire Economic Development Chamber Alliance Johnson County Indiana

With historically low unemployment rates and baby boomers retiring at a rapid pace, employers are desperately looking to fill open jobs across the state. Aspire’s Talent Team recently hosted a panel to discuss programs that assist people who are leaving the judicial system and prepare them to enter the workforce. Aspire is encouraging local businesses to consider these employees as an opportunity to filling workforce needs.

Why? “Programs like these and the people who participate in them can help our employers bridge their employment gaps,” explained Aspire Vice President of Economic Development Amanda Rubadue. “These programs help former inmates develop the tools and strengths they need to get on their feet to start a new life for themselves and enter the workforce where they are truly needed.”

Rubadue added that hiring employees out of the judicial system is important to Aspire member investors who are looking to hire, and it also helps remove the stigma of retaining such workers. “Having a job reduces the recidivism rate,” she commented. “With the employment rate as low as it is, programs like these provide our employers with additional options when it comes to hiring.”

The panel discussion was organized by Community Development Specialist Jennifer Hollingshead, who manages Aspire’s volunteer teams and provides direction for them. The Talent Team pursues projects and initiatives that relate to workforce development and attraction efforts, and it works to help achieve one of the goals of Aspire’s 5-Year Strategic Plan: to magnify and deliver robust education and workforce endeavors.

The panel included representatives of three organizations:

  • Kelly Gunn, project manager for Transitioning Opportunities for Work, Education and Reality (TOWER) mentoring, said the program is for inmates in the Hamilton County Jail to help plan for successful re-entry to society with the main focus on employment. “We work with 15 Hamilton county employers who will hire participants upon release. We train mostly skilled trades – like cement work, electrical skills and landscaping, for instance – hopefully leading to well-paying jobs for a lifetime.”

  • Carrie Heck, director of the Hoosier Initiative for Re-entry (HIRE), said the program helps prepare clients to obtain gainful employment through training in soft skills and breaking barriers that include housing, transportation and documentation needed for successful reentry. HIRE coordinators stay with clients for a minimum of a year after employment. “We want to make sure our clients have the best shot at careers providing livable wages and benefits that have not always been possible,” Heck said. “Hoosiers who have served their time are leaving prison with certification training that puts them ahead of other candidates. They are prescreened, qualified and loyal employees for anyone who gives them a chance.”

  • Jacob Stansbury, workforce alignment consultant for Ivy Tech Community College in Columbus, said the organization has partnered with Edinburgh Correctional Facility in Johnson County to train men in welding with the goal of aligning them with gainful employment in the industry upon release. “Welding is an exceptional pathway for released offenders, providing higher pay rates and stable employment upon re-entry,” Stansbury said. “Offenders are vetted on their behavior and aptitude before they are offered this training, and the American Welding Society (AWS) certifications illustrate that these welders are knowledgeable in this field.”

“We are sharing information on these programs to bring awareness that organizations are working with offenders to develop foundational and employment skills,” Hollingshead concluded. “We hope that when Aspire member investors are looking to hire, they’ll consider ex-offenders who desire a second chance.”