80 graduate from program that finds employment for men and women with a criminal past

Cherri Gregg
November 27, 2018 - 3:04 pm
80 men and women who completed Uplift Workforce Solutions graduated from the program at Temple's Mitten Hall.

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Brandon McCoy describes his vision for himself: "To be productive and make good decisions."

McCoy is one of 80 men and women who completed Uplift Workforce Solutions, a program that provides four weeks of life skills training and two weeks of technical training to the formerly incarcerated and puts them to work. After walking across the stage at Temple's Mitten Hall at a graduation ceremony on Tuesday, he will start a job at Brown's ShopRite in Philadelphia as an overnight grocery clerk.

"I am super excited. This is a great opportunity," he said. "It's just a stepping stone for me to do bigger and greater things."

McCoy, who has a criminal record, says he's had a tough time securing a job throughout his life. But he never gave up. He was one of more than 500 who packed into a classroom in Temple's Ritter Hall back in August for the chance to get into the six-week program. 

"We wound up taking about 100 people into the program thus far — and we have more people on the waiting list," Uplift's director, Barry Johnson, said. "We wish we could expand and have a bigger capacity — but for those who qualify, we hope to bring them into a future cohort."

The need for jobs for the formerly incarcerated is at an all-time high.

The program pays attendees a $100 weekly stipend, and provides a TransPass and a free lunch each day. In addition, all graduates are guaranteed an entry-level position at one of a number of grocery store partners.

"There’s a number of people that are already in management positons and going up the ladder," said Sandy Brown, spokesperson for Brown's SuperStores, a major partner in the program. She says it's been a win-win relationship.

"They are really excited — and they really appreciate the opportunity," she said, "and we have found that the level of turnover is less than what we get from the folks we hire from the general population."

Brown says they hope more employers hire individuals who need a second chance.

"It may seem a little out of the box," she says, "but this has been a special population for us that has worked out well."

McCoy, who eventually wants to own a business, says he is hopefully this job will change the trajectory of his life.

"I won't stop," he said. "There are opportunities out here. I won't sit down. I'm going to keep working."