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By Scott Walker

Talent Attraction in Lafayette, Talent Attraction in West Lafayette, Talent Attraction in Greater LafayetteThere is no greater force for change in a person’s life than a good job. That saying from a friend of mine in the economic development industry has stuck with me since I first heard it 10 years ago. Stated more broadly, a good job can be the positive force that someone needs to affect a change in their lives that benefits all of society.

Take Jonathan Jones’ story as a case in point. Five years ago, he thought he’d end up dead or behind bars for the rest of his life.

“Being a felon, I always felt that I was less than other people. I didn’t think I deserved another chance,” Jonathan explained.

But as fate would have it, his path took a different direction – something he credits in part, to receiving exactly that of which he felt unworthy: a second chance at employment.

Today, as a peer recovery specialist at Mental Health America, Jonathan supports numerous individuals on their journeys to recovery.

“I hope you give others second chances because they will succeed,” Jonathan said. “There’s hope for people.”

For a large portion of Americans, less than spotless criminal histories pose a significant obstacle to employment. With the majority of pandemic restrictions easing, wages rising to meet market demands and an abundance of open positions, employers need to find creative solutions to attracting and retaining talent.

Enter second chance hiring – the practice of extending employment opportunities to those who have arrest or conviction histories or are recovering from substance use disorder. In doing this, employers are gaining a competitive advantage, and at the same time, they are helping people rebuild their lives. While recognizing that not every employer can embrace this non-traditional workforce due to legal, insurance or other business constraints, many can make it work.

Doing so presents financial incentives. For instance, by tapping the talent of individuals with felonies, employers could potentially receive a Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) for business purposes. The WOTC is a Federal tax credit available to employers for hiring individuals from certain target groups (including individuals with felonies), according to the Internal Revenue Service.

What’s more, with job openings at record highs, adopting inclusive hiring practices could be the solution to finding skilled employees in a highly competitive labor market. And employers say these hires are some of the most loyal and committed employees. Such hiring practices can also advance employers’ diversity and inclusion initiatives and add valuable perspectives to their business. The benefits to employers can be profound.

Employers who are seeking dedicated and hardworking employees to fill available positions should earnestly consider the opportunities associated with embracing a second chance workforce. After all, it is a win-win-win – a win for businesses, a win for job seekers and a win for our communities.

“I faced many obstacles with employment. I had several felonies, and it has always haunted me – even to this day,” Jonathan said. “Today, I can say that I have a totally different life. I’m grateful for the second chance I received.”

As employers, we have the opportunity to be that positive force for change in a person’s life.  Will you consider it?

If your business embraces second chance hiring practices, please let us know. We’ll add you to the following list of current Greater Lafayette-based recovery & felony friendly workplaces:

*Please note, businesses denoted with an asterisk (*) are members of Greater Lafayette Commerce.

Would you like to learn more about becoming a recovery & felony friendly employer? Contact us at Greater Lafayette Commerce, and we would be happy to assist you.

Scott Walker serves as President and CEO of Greater Lafayette Commerce.

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