Encourage training, programs, and workforce inclusion opportunities for people with disabilities or judicial records, or who have undergone rehabilitation from addiction.
The Opportunity for Work & Learning (OWL) is a non-profit organization that has helped 26,000 people since 1961 to overcome mental and physical disabilities or prior incarceration to achieve growth in their personal, as well as professional lives. OWL offers individualized support and programming, including practical occupational training, such as customer service and fork lift certifications. Their services extend to eleven counties. OWL also owns the for-profit Lexington Manufacturing Center (LMC); many of the participants in the OWL program are hired by LMC.
Another company helping to remove barriers to second-entry employment is DV8 Kitchen, a ‘fast-casual restaurant and bakery’ started by the owners of the Saul Good restaurants in Lexington. The company provides fresh, natural food designed to “change your life.” According to Rob Perez, one of the owners of DV8 Kitchen, there are barriers to people trying to make a second-entry into the workforce after addiction or incarceration. Some of the employers do not want to pay for training for what they think will be short term employment, they worry about provision liability for workman’s compensation coverage (even though it is already figured into liability insurance), and they have practicality issues. Mr. Perez believes an employee certification program would alleviate many of these barriers by providing such things as required weekly drug tests, counseling, 12-step programs, etc. He also indicated a need for government incentives to educate employers about providing opportunities for jobs for these members of society, as opposed to precluding them from employment entirely. The DV8 Kitchen’s goal is for one-third of their staff to be second-chance employees. Imagine Lexington advocates for encouraging employers to provide job opportunities, returning hope to members of society who are struggling to recover from past circumstances.
Additionally, to help remove barriers to employment from felony records, the 2016 General Assembly passed House Bill 40, which provides for a process that permits application to have a Class D felony conviction expunged. Clean Slate Kentucky has resources to help people expunge their criminal records, both misdemeanors and Class-D felonies. Every opportunity to spread the word about this program should continue to be explored and expanded.