The collaboration between Wilmington Alliance, Delaware Volunteer Legal Services, Wilmington HOPE Commission, Delaware Center for Justice and Project New Start aims to connect justice-involved Delawareans with careers in high-growth sectors

Wilmington Alliance and JPMorgan Chase launched the Second Chance Employment Collaborative to connect justice-involved locals with stable 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 and has received a $1M 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, as well as apprenticeships for hands-on jobs training.
 
Currently, nearly 9 out of 10 employers use a past conviction to screen applicants for job opportunities.
 
“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 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 at the firm, 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 – including Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, Cara, the Safer Foundation and Cabrini Green Legal Aid – to further build its pipeline for hiring people with criminal backgrounds through training and mentorship programs. Building on lessons learned and best practices identified from its dedicated efforts in Chicago, JPMorgan Chase is investing in the Second Chance Employment Collaborative in Wilmington to develop and execute an effective roadmap, and offer critical coaching and training to place individuals who are justice-involved into high growth industries.
 
“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.”
 
Working together, the Collaborative brings expertise and dedicated services for justice-involved individuals from end-to-end: 

– With its longstanding work in local workforce development, Wilmington Alliance will serve as the facilitating agency, helping to connect neighborhoods, businesses, and nonprofits and will engage stakeholders in creating a systemic approach that aligns resources to create accessible pathways and comprehensive support services. 
Delaware Volunteer Legal Services will develop a process for screening individuals for employment eligibility, expungement and sealing of non-convictions and convictions and FDIC waivers. This includes developing trainings, filing petitions, providing representation and developing a pipeline to workforce training for screened individuals.
– Building on their success and expertise serving individuals navigating reentry, the Wilmington HOPE CommissionProject New Start and Delaware Center for Justice will directly expand their services to support the upskilling of 100 participants. They will update 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. The participants will then be supported in reaching the next step on their path, whether that’s skills training, apprenticeship or full-time employment. The participant experience has been built to include: 
– Criminal screening results, coaching toward solutions and help reducing the barriers of legal and processing fees.
-In-person and virtual digital skills assessment and training for the basic computer skills needed for success on any job site.
– Career coaching and mentorship including mock interviews, resume building, skills assessments and wraparound services and support.
– Apprenticeships, further training and employment opportunities.

Another 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—especially important in a COVID environment.

Over two years, the Collaborative has goals 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. To stay updated on the progress of the Second Chance Employment Collaborative, please visit www.wilmingtonaliance.org [wilmingtonalliance.org].