Fair chance employment offers opportunities for county staffing

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Key Takeaways

The local government workforce experienced a significant disruption in spring 2020 totaling more than 1.3 million jobs lost. The pandemic’s consequences continue, with nearly 800,000 jobs yet to recover. These positions include healthcare practitioners, sanitation workers, transit employees, utility workers, maintenance crews and construction workers, all of which provide essential services and resources to communities.

As counties look for creative solutions to recruit and retain employees, they have an opportunity to partner with local criminal justice and workforce agencies to build and adopt “fair chance” talent strategies. 

By expanding opportunities for jobseekers with past convictions, counties can tap new talent pools and help drive public safety and community stability.  Research shows that justice-impacted populations experience unemployment at five times the national average. Despite stigma and misperceptions about their qualifications for work, employees with past convictions show high rates of retention and advancement once they secure a job. We also know that a stable job is the most effective deterrent of future arrests and incarceration — meaning fair chance practices can reduce crime and lower jail populations. 

Several counties have taken steps toward adopting fair chance strategies. Forsyth County, N.C. has developed and published HR policies that encourage and enable more people with past convictions to compete for jobs. 

Monroe County, N.Y. adopted legislation to ensure candidates with past convictions do not face discrimination in its hiring process. 

Los Angeles County has taken a cross-departmental approach to fair chance employment. Its human resources agency has a dedicated page outlining its fair chance strategy for jobseekers and guiding them through the employment and background screening process. In addition, its Department of Economic Opportunity has resources and incentives for local businesses that hire candidates with past convictions. 

So, what are the elements of a county-led fair chance employment strategy? 

Counties can review their hiring policies to ensure they are not unintentionally disqualifying or discouraging great candidates due to conviction histories that are not relevant to the job. 

Counties can build recruiting partnerships with local reentry and workforce initiatives — or their own correctional agencies — to support candidates with past convictions to navigate the county workforce and apply for available opportunities.

County HR teams can partner with programs that help address retention and job stability challenges for people returning to the workforce, such as transportation, housing, healthcare, recovery and childcare. 

Counties can leverage their vendor and supplier relationships to ensure that companies doing business with the county align with their fair-chance strategies. 

Counties can consider policy and regulatory changes that minimize risk for fair chance employers and creative incentives to hire candidates returning from the justice system. 

With a combined workforce of 3.6 million public servants, counties can take a national leadership role to drive fair chance employment and encourage the private sector to follow suit. 

This July, at its Annual Conference, NACo and its collaborators from Envoy will hold a panel discussion to examine practical steps counties can take to expand fair chance employment as a talent solution and work across agencies to drive employment opportunities for candidates with past convictions.  To learn more about developing a fair chance strategy, you can visit envoy.us or explore resources from leaders like the SHRM Foundation or the Second Chance Business Coalition. 

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County News

Fair chance employment offers opportunities for county staffing

As counties look for creative solutions to recruit and retain employees, they have an opportunity to partner with local criminal justice and workforce agencies to build and adopt “fair chance” talent strategies.