Second-Chance Hiring Works: Here’s How To Get Started Today

Formerly incarcerated workers should be an employer’s dream, especially in a tight labor market:

  • They are loyal, hardworking and perform as well or better than other employees.
  • Many have skills and credentials that are in high demand.
  • With more than 10,500 people leaving Michigan prisons every year, they represent a huge untapped labor pool.

Many West Michigan employers have discovered these advantages. But some still struggle with misunderstandings about this potential workforce — or they don’t know where to start with second-chance hiring.

We have a new opportunity for employers to learn more and offer a second chance: Calvin University, the Michigan Department of Corrections and TalentFirst are collaborating to make it easier for employers to tap into this underutilized pool of skilled talent.

Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Individuals is a short, online microcredential course that will equip HR leaders, managers, and business owners with the knowledge and skills to implement second-chance hiring effectively. Those who complete the online course can register for an in-person workshop on-campus at Calvin. They also can join a tour of the Department of Corrections’ Vocational Village in Ionia — an innovative program that teaches a wide range of skilled trades.

Because TalentFirst is a SHRM-recognized provider of professional development credits, HR professionals can earn up to 9.5 PDCs if they participate in all three components.

The Details

Microcredential ($25.00)
With a choice of two start dates, April 8 or May 6, the course runs for two weeks and will take 2-3 hours to complete on your own time. It covers:

  • Understanding the criminal justice system
  • Hiring considerations
  • Employability
  • Accessing supports and services
  • Creating a flourishing culture

Those who complete the course will receive a digital badge and, if desired, 2.5 SHRM professional development credits. Completing the course also makes participants eligible to join the optional workshop and Vocational Village tour.

Workshop ($50.00)
Online course completers are invited to attend an in-person workshop, June 12, 8:30-11 a.m., at Calvin University, to interact with other employers, brainstorm and refine plans. Breakfast is provided, and 3 SHRM professional development credits are available.

Tour of Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility (free tour; $50 for transportation and lunch)
Employers may participate in a June 12, 11:45 a.m.-2:30 p.m. field trip to the Vocational Village at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility to learn about one of the top vocational training prison programs in the nation, observing the training and meeting leaders and trainees. Boxed lunch and transportation via charter bus provided. Four SHRM professional development credits are available.

Group and nonprofit discounts are available. Contact Abbie Lipsker, Calvin’s director of continuing studies, with questions:

Learn more and register

Perfect Time for a Second Chance

The three partners in the Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Individuals initiative have a long track record of accomplishments and collaboration to promote the advantages of second-chance hiring.

Calvin University, through its Prison Initiative , is a leader in preparing people to leave prison ready to get to work. The Michigan Department of Corrections’ Vocational Village pioneered an approach to training in skilled trades. And TalentFirst has for years been an effective advocate for second-chance hiring (PDF).

Initiatives led by TalentFirst and our member employers include working with the Michigan Department of Corrections and Secretary of State to ensure every parolee who leaves state prison has a state ID – a vital document for employment, housing and returning to civic life.

We also advocated to support Clean Slate legislation , which automated the expungement process for eligible convictions. In 2020, Michigan became the third state to adopt this legislation, and it was the first to include felonies within its eligibility.

Many employers of TalentFirst support second-chance hiring because they know it provides multiple benefits. It expands the pool of skilled talent. It helps individuals to rejoin their communities as productive citizens. It helps more employers and families to flourish. It strengthens our region.

It’s the right thing to do, and now is the perfect time to get started.

Since 2017, April has been designated Second Chance Month . And with the Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Individuals initiative, employers have their own chance to make a difference.


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