Finding gainful employment can be daunting if you’re an individual with justice involvement. According to a study conducted in New York City, having a criminal record reduced the likelihood of a callback or job offer by nearly 50%. Meanwhile, there are 45,000 documented barriers in state and federal laws designed to perpetually punish an individual, long after their involvement with the justice system ends. As a result, millions of talented job seekers are denied the opportunity to contribute to the positive growth within their communities and the national economy.
Launched in 1971, our Employment Services program is designed to address the unique needs and obstacles preventing our participants from accessing employment due to justice involvement. With our compassionate, culturally-competent staff and volunteers, we provide pathways for our participants to access, compete, and thrive in the rapidly changing job market.
We offer a variety of services, including job readiness workshops, sector-based skills training in Culinary Arts, Green Construction, Environmental Remediation, Job Development, and Transportation, as well as job placement assistance and retention services. We also offer paid internships to help job seekers advance in their desired careers.
Training the next generation of food industry leaders, our certification-driven Culinary Arts program provides job seekers with hands-on training and an in-depth overview of the culinary industry, including restaurant management and local food initiatives. The six-week program offers customer service and interpersonal skill development, mentorship, professional development field trips, and certification test preparation to participants. Completion of this program can lead to earning both the ServSafe and New York City Food Handler’s certifications.
Shaping future leaders in the green construction industry, our Green Building Operation and Maintenance program provides an overview of environmental health and safety, building science, facility management, and sustainable construction and deconstruction methods. Participants do preparatory work for and obtain certifications in Basic Carpentry, Electrical/ Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC); Plumbing; Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10-hour Construction; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lead Renovation, Repair and Paint (RRP); GPRO Operation and Maintenance; and Building Performance Institute (BPI) Energy Efficient Building Operation (EEBOPS).
The participants in our Environment Remediation Training program will help protect communities against harmful pollutants. This program gives participants a comprehensive overview of environmental health and safety in its first three weeks. In the following three weeks, they receive advanced training in OSHA 10-hour Construction, OSHA 40-hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER), OSHA Confined Space, EPA Lead RRP and Lead in Construction, New York State/New York City Asbestos Handler (Initial), Disaster Site Worker, Global Hazard Communication, and Four-Hour Scaffolding.
Building the next generation of human resource professionals, our Job Developer Training program leverages our agency’s unique expertise in bridging the needs of the job market and our participants’ marketable skill sets. Employing a formalized curriculum and paid intern and externships, the program has demonstrated success with training individuals with justice involvement in helping their peers stand out in the competitive job market.
Driving commercial vehicles requires a higher level of knowledge, skills, and experience. Our transportation and commercial driver’s license training program prepares participants for high-demand transportation careers and makes them more marketable to prospective employees. Graduates of the program receive a commercial drivers’ license (Class-B; Passenger and Air Brake Endorsements).
Participants in our Transitional Work program are afforded a paid, part-time, 10-week internship with partnering employers throughout New York City. With rigorous case management and a weekly job club, the program provides critical support in bridging skill and career gaps on our participants’ resumes. The internship helps job seekers expand or generate a work record, introducing them to employers and providing a “lab” where they can practice their new-found skills.
Our Employment Services program provides a variety of pathways to employment and equips our participants with the necessary skills to thrive in the workplace. The success of our Employment Services and other reentry programs can be attributed to our lifetime commitment to all our participants; our one-stop-shop model of coordinated services; and our agency’s cultural competence.
A core value and pillar of our work is our commitment to providing infinite “second” chances to our participants. If a participant is not ready to engage in our programs for any reason, they can always come back. Our only criterion is that they are not a danger to themselves or others.
Our “one-stop-shop” model of coordinated service delivery allows us to holistically address the complex and overlapping needs of our participants under one roof. Upon intake, our participants have access to a variety of programs, all located at our 65,000 square foot headquarters in Long Island City, Queens. These programs include Alternatives to Incarceration, Benefits Application Assistance (Single Stop), Creative Arts, Employment Services, Education, Family Services, Food and Nutrition, Health Services, Mental Health Treatment, Prepare for Release (I-CAN), and Substance Use Treatment. Our Housing program consists of scatter-site apartments across the city, as well as two adjacent supportive housing developments in West Harlem.
Approximately 50% of our staff have histories of incarceration, substance use, or have experienced homelessness. Furthermore, 75% of our employees are people of color. At all levels of leadership, our culturally-competent staff members with “lived experience” connect with our participants and serve as role models. Our groundbreaking approach to reentry and cultural competence was documented in our toolkit titled Employing Your Mission.
*Article by Emerson Soto, Director of Design and Digital Media at The Fortune Society