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Low jobless rate helping more felons find jobs
McCook’s Work Ethic Camp was created with the goal of helping ex-cons transition back to being productive members of society.
That role has eroded with the overcrowding of Nebraska’s prison system, but a new trend may make it easier for convicts who have paid their debt to society to get back into the legal workforce.
Having a felony conviction is a major roadblock to landing many jobs, but a shortage of workers in the Midwest is causing many employers to reconsider.
U.S. manufacturers have added nearly 260,000 jobs over the past year, construction workers are in demand, and with an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent, many employers can’t be as picky as they previously were.
Some states have passed laws to require human resource departments to delay background checks until farther along in the hiring process, and even in states that don’t have those laws, many are starting to waive drug tests or skip criminal background checks altogether.
"The dynamics of the economy require a new approach, employers have to open the aperture to bring in people from the sidelines, whether they be ex-offenders or retirees," Becky Frankiewicz, North America president at ManpowerGroup, told CNBC.
Mid Plains Community College has been involved in an effort to teach offenders welding skills in McCook, and, although it ceased operations here, another program sought to teach Work Ethic Camp offenders construction skills.
Convicted sex offenders will still have a more difficult time finding employment than other felons, but prison population pressures, coupled with pressure to ease marijuana laws, should help more convicts find a productive place in society.