Job training program offers ex-offenders a second chance

All who graduate are guaranteed a job at a partnering store.

Cherri Gregg
August 20, 2018 - 3:43 pm
Anywhere from 300 to 500 ex-offenders attended Temple University's open house for a six-week job training program specifically for ex-offenders, which provides them with a rare opportunity for a second chance.

Cherri Gregg | KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — "Be patient — everybody will be seen," advised Mike Robinson, Temple University's director of human resources, to a crowd inside Ritter Hall Monday. 

Anywhere from 300 to 500 ex-offenders listened intently during Temple's open house for a six-week job training program specifically for ex-offenders, which provides them with a rare opportunity for a second chance.

Staff from the Workforce Solutions program — which is in partnership with Uplift Solutions, Inc. — were seeking 50 people to fill out their next cohort.

All who graduate are guaranteed a job at a partnering Brown's Super Store or Fresh Grocer.

"A lot of people think these folks don't deserve a second chance," said Robinson, "but if they don't get a second chance, they go back to what they know, which is crime."

Tens of thousands of individuals return to Philadelphia every year following incarceration. The city is home to more than 300,000 residents with a criminal past.

Since the program launched, 210 ex-offenders have graduated, including former juvenile lifers. Jobs at the partnering businesses range from working as a cashier to working in the bakery, and more; to top it off, there's room for promotions.

"I been putting in applications and nobody calls," said 60-year-old Keith Coleman. His criminal record has been a road block for opportunity for years. He said he'll get a job, but many times loses it once his background comes up. At his age, he said he desperately wants a chance to become a productive citizen and not be a burden on his family or society.

"So I won't have to be on the street," he added. "This could be a game changer for me."

Elma English has a similar story.

"They tell me they going to call back but they never do," she echoed, noting she's applied for jobs for the past two years and only received part-time, temporary work. "I get overwhelmed, but I don't give up."

English said failure is not an option. After the one-question interview with Uplift, she said she has hope.

"It gave me the incentive to keep on going," she added.

Barry Johnson, director of the Workforce Solutions program, said the need for opportunity is overwhelming. They don't plan on turning any qualified candidates away.

"It doesn't make a difference at how many we get," he said. "We just put them on the waiting list for the next cohort."