Chase, Wilmington Alliance launch effort to give ex-offenders a chance at jobs in high-growth areas

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The Wilmington Alliance and JPMorgan Chase launched the Second Chance Employment Collaborative to connect those who have been in the criminal justice system with career pathways in high-growth sectors like IT and healthcare.
The collaborative brings together Wilmington Alliance, Delaware Volunteer Legal Services, Wilmington HOPE Commission, Delaware Center for Justice, and Project New Start. The program received a $1 million philanthropic investment over two years from JPMorgan Chase.

The collaborative will provide justice-involved individuals with legal aid and workforce development resources to connect them with in-demand and stable jobs. It will also work directly with employers and connect people with arrest and conviction records with digital skills assessment and training, career coaching and mentorship, and apprenticeships direct jobs training.

Currently, nearly nine out of 10 employers use a past conviction to screen applicants for job opportunities. Delaware has “banned the box” on job applications, but background checks often screen out individuals. Also, Black offenders are incarcerated at far greater rates for similar offenses than whites.

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

JPMorgan Chase, the largest for-profit private employer in the state, has been expanding its efforts to give people across the country a second chance by broadening its own candidate pool, including people with criminal backgrounds, advocating for policies that help remove barriers to employment for these individuals and investing in community organizations that help support skills training across the U.S.
JPMorgan Chase has “banned the box” to increase the access of people with criminal backgrounds to jobs by ensuring qualified applicants with criminal backgrounds receive the same consideration as any other applicant when their background has no bearing on job requirements.

The firm also launched new collaborations with community organizations in Chicago.
Building on lessons learned and best practices identified from its efforts in Chicago, JPMorgan Chase is investing in the Second Chance Employment Collaborative in Wilmington.

“We are happy to be working on one accord in Delaware,” said Tom Horne, Delaware Market Leader for JPMorgan Chase. “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.”
Participants will be identified from a network of sources to join the Second Chance Employment Collaborative.
One key consideration in this work is the digital divide which disproportionately impacts low-income communities.
The collaborative aims to increase access to technology and improve proficiency in digital literacy skills that are often a significant barrier to accessing key services, supports, and training. The Wilmington Alliance has secured 120 new laptop devices to support the collaborative partners in offering digital skills training, expungement, and waiver processes—critical in a Covid environment.

Over two years, the collaborative’s goal is to screen 300 justice-involved individuals and have at least 50 of them complete the process to get placed into full-time employment opportunities with career potential.
Updates will be available at www.wilmingtonaliance.org.
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