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Chase invests $1M in second chance collaborative

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JPMorgan Chase has donated $1 million to back second chance opportunities for the formerly incarcerated through a new collaborative. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – A new collaborative between five state nonprofits funded by banking giant JPMorgan Chase will give the previously incarcerated a second chance at careers in high-growth sectors, including information technology (IT) and health care.

The Second Chance Employment Collaborative will be funded by a $1 million donation by Chase over two years and brings together the Wilmington Alliance, Delaware Volunteer Legal Services, Wilmington HOPE Commission, Delaware Center for Justice and Project New Start.

The new effort will provide participants with legal aid and workforce development resources to connect them with in-demand and stable jobs. Over the next two years, the collaborative aims to screen 300 eligible participants and place at least 50 into full-time employment opportunities with career potential.  

It will also work directly with employers to connect people with arrest and conviction records with digital skills assessment and training, career coaching and mentorship, as well as apprenticeships for hands-on job training. Currently, nearly nine out of 10 employers use a past conviction to screen applicants for job opportunities.

Renata Kowalczyk, Wilmington Alliance

“There are roughly 80,000 Delawareans who have a criminal record for low-level crimes,” said Renata B. Kowalczyk, CEO of Wilmington Alliance, in a statement announcing the effort. “That means they are unnecessarily shut out from accessing sustainable employment to support themselves and their families. Meanwhile, many employers in our state are growing rapidly and in need of qualified talent. Our goal is to close that gap.”

Chase, the largest bank in the U.S. and the largest for-profit employer in Delaware, has made second-chance initiatives a key part of its own hiring practices and community outreach in recent years. The bank has broadened its candidate pool by “banning the box,” or removing criminal-history questions from employment applications. It also advocates for the policy through industry trade groups and donates to community organizations that offer skills training.

The Second Chance Employment Collaborative is based upon similar programming that Chase launched in Chicago.

“We are happy to be working on one accord in Delaware,” said Tom Horne, Delaware Market Leader for JPMorgan Chase, in a statement. “Our firm invested in the development of Delaware Prosperity Partnership’s new strategic plan to build a more inclusive tech talent pipeline. One way that we can make even more progress on that plan is through the work of this Collaborative which has the ability to make second chances a reality for many.”

Tom Horne

The Wilmington Alliance, a nonprofit tasked with growing economic opportunities in the city, will serve as the collaborative’s facilitating agency, helping to connect neighborhoods, businesses, and nonprofits. It will also donate 120 new laptops to support its partners in offering digital skills training, expungement and waiver processes—especially important in a COVID environment.

Delaware Volunteer Legal Services, which offers free legal representation to the state’s indigent, will develop a process for screening individuals for employment eligibility, expungement and sealing of non-convictions and convictions and FDIC waivers. This includes developing training programs, filing petitions, providing representation and developing a pipeline to workforce training for screened individuals.

Finally, a trio of nonprofits serving those reentering society – the Wilmington HOPE Commission, Project New Start and Delaware Center for Justice – will expand their services to support the upskilling of 100 participants. They will also update the current curriculum to expand digital literacy skills development.

Participants will be identified from a network of sources to join the Second Chance Employment Collaborative in their journey toward employment. They can expect to receive a criminal background screening and coaching toward solutions, a digital skills assessment and basic computer skills training, and career coaching and mentorship, including mock interviews, resume building, skills assessments and wraparound services and support.

To learn more about the Second Chance Employment Collaborative, visit WilmingtonAliance.org.

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