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You Can Still Get a Job: These Organizations Help Overcome Barriers

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Ask Joanna Staib, executive director of the Delaware Workforce Development Board, if there are enough job opportunities for recent high school graduates, and she is ready with a pretty impressive statistic: in February of 2023, there were 35,000 open positions throughout the state, or one-and-a-half jobs available for each person looking.

But for some Delawareans, getting a job isn’t as simple as handing in an application. What if you have a criminal record? Or need special accommodations for a disability? What if finding childcare, housing or transportation is a challenge?

Recognizing that the obstacles faced by every young Delawarean are unique, the Board partners with schools and other institutions to make sure Delaware’s workers are ready to meet the demand and to fill the open jobs.

For example, the Board is working with United Way of Delaware and the Capital School District to implement a pilot program at Dover High School. The program, Success for Our Seniors (SOS), supplements services provided by school counselors to uncover the obstacles each specific student faces and provide tailored support. Based on findings from the pilot, the program will be revised and expanded to other locations. (Learn more about the program at UWDE.org/2023/02/success-for-our-seniors-sos.)

Here is a look at some other Delaware organizations working to help Delawareans with barriers to employment find and keep jobs. It isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list — we encourage you to keep researching online and start conversations with school counselors to uncover other resources that might be relevant to your unique situation.

Wilmington Alliance/Second Chance Employment Collaborative

First, some good news: in 2022, the Delaware Workforce Development Board conducted a survey of 251 employers across 17 industries and nearly half of the respondents said they would accept candidates with a history of justice involvement. In several sectors, such as construction and agriculture/forestry, the percentage of employers willing to extend a second chance is particularly high.

And those looking for a second chance have an ally: the Second Chance Employment Collaborative spearheaded by the Wilmington Alliance. Launched in 2021 and supported by a $1 million grant from banking giant JPMorgan Chase, the collaborative offers legal aid and workforce development resources to help Delawareans on parole or probation, or those who are post-release, get stable employment.

“There are roughly 80,000 Delawareans who have a criminal record for low-level crimes,” said Renata B. Kowalczyk, CEO of the Wilmington Alliance, when the collaboration was announced. “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.”

Other project partners include the Wilmington HOPE Commission, Delaware Volunteer Legal Services, the Delaware Center for Justice and Project New Start. They can provide all kinds of services that justice-involved individuals need, from expungement help to skills training.

At the Wilmington Alliance, Karlton Robert took over as equitable workforce development program manager on May 1 after three years at the Delaware Department of Labor helping people re-enter the workforce. The Alliance, he says, is very “in the weeds of the community of Wilmington and geared toward making the city better and brighter.”

One of Roberts’ roles is connecting with local businesses that are interested in hiring marginalized Wilmington residents and those returning to society after being justice-involved. He works to learn what employers need and attempts to match them with people who can work. Learn more about the Alliance’s work at WilmingtonAlliance.org

Jobs for Delaware Graduates

Jobs for Delaware Graduates (JDG) works with schools and major employers such as ChristianaCare and Goodwill Industries to help students gain workplace experience.

“Work-based learning is quickly becoming an integral part of the high school experience in Delaware,” says Anna Morgan, who is a coordinator at William Penn High School. “Like most things in life, students need to actively take advantage of opportunities presented to them. For example, if a local business leader comes to a class to guest speak, a student should introduce themselves after and get contact information. We’ve had students get internships that way.”

JDG programs offer chances for students to learn about traditional and non-traditional fields, the better to allow them to make informed decisions after they graduate. They can interact with professionals in different industries, see demonstrations of different types of jobs and even perform the jobs.

Most importantly, JDG offers services tailored to students with unique challenges, such as those in foster care. The JDG Thrive program provides school-to-work transitional services to young adults aged 16 to 21 in foster care. Students work one-on-one with a coordinator to make and complete a plan that considers their unique goals and obstacles. Learn more at JobsDEGrads.org.

The Precisionists, Inc.

This Delaware-based organization is on a mission to create jobs for individuals across a broad range of disabilities. The Precisionists, Inc. (TPI) works with major employers like DuPont, CSC and UBS to find placements for neurodiverse job seekers.

“If you think about the unemployment numbers, that tells you there’s a huge labor pool sitting right here in every community that just needs an opportunity,” founder and CEO Ernie Dianastasis told the Delaware Business Times. “[The labor shortage] brings more focus to it than there has ever been before.”

In addition to placing job seekers, TPI also employs them at its Innovation and Technology Center off Route 202 north of Wilmington.

To learn more about job opportunities, submit a statement of interest form at ThePrecisionists.com

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