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Employers should consider this

Helping former prisoners re-enter society can be good for business

Just about every employer is discovering that in Iowa’s booming economy, the job market is tight. In August, Iowa’s unemployment rate was 2.6 percent. Most people who want jobs already have them. That means that companies in need of workers aren’t having an easy time finding people to fill those openings.

One source of highly motivated potential workers that is often overlooked is the pool of formerly incarcerated individuals who are attempting to rebuild their lives. For these folks, getting employers to give them a chance to put past mistakes behind them is often a major challenge.

Gov. Kim Reynolds is encouraging employers and human resources managers to learn more about how hiring former prisoners might be an attractive option by attending an Employer and Re-entry Breakfast Roundtable on Nov. 6 at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville. The session will run from 8 a.m. to noon. It is being co-hosted by Iowa Workforce Development and the Iowa Department of Corrections.

“In Iowa, there are jobs looking for people and it’s critical that we address the skills gap holistically,” Reynolds said. “By forging a partnership between the business community, the Department of Corrections, and Iowa Workforce Development, we can help formerly incarcerated individuals find a better path. Providing Iowa employers with a much-needed workforce while opening new doors for Iowans on the road to redemption is an obvious win-win.”

That’s potentially a win for both employers and the former prisoners. Iowa’s prison system offers inmates the opportunity for a wide range of educational and skill development options while they are paying their debt to society. That means that many of them leave prison with excellent job readiness. Additionally, most of these individuals recognize that doing well in the initial jobs they take after prison may be critical to leading successful future lives. That motivation often makes them excellent workers.

Consequently, getting former prisoners back into the workforce is important to these individuals and can very much be of benefit to those companies that give them a chance.

The Messenger urges employers to take a careful look at this hiring option. It could be good for both them and society. Companies need properly motivated employees. Our communities need to make it possible for former prisoners to build lives that allow them to put past mistakes in the rearview mirror.

Employers may register for the roundtable event at Eventbrite. A link to the online registration will also be available at doc.iowa.gov. If you are interested in attending an event and have additional questions, please contact Richelle Seitz at richelle.seitz@iwd.iowa.gov.