‘Soft skills’ vital to securing employment for ex-offenders

Inaugural graduating class are, front row, Andy Lopez, Louis Ortega, Mark Hundley, Aaron Shorter, Dionte Pearson; second row, Hector Guzman, Dianna Thomas, Charlene Gulley, Gennifer Wecker, Eric Smith, Bernardo Delgadillo, Leroy Williams, Allen Cato, Cordell Jackson; and third row, Wayne Spencer, Brandon Hatley, Carl Deloach, Reginald Bryant, Mario Smith, Jeremiah Huffman, Jerry Cunningham, Ramone Purnell, Stephon Harris and Chase McNeil.

Story Douglas Broome, Parole Agent III
Photos by Jennifer Barnes, Parole Agent II

The Los Angeles Central Parole District in a collaborative partnership with the City of Inglewood and America’s Job Center of California (AJCC) South Bay Business and Career Center recently joined forces to assist the formerly incarcerated to secure pathways toward permanent employment.

Each day of the workshop, Gennifer Wecker, the job academy facilitator, identified a student of the day. On graduation day, each student of the day was presented a Student of the Day Certificate redeemable for Target Gift Cards.
From left are Wayne Spencer, AJCC Board Member; student of the day recipients Allen Cato, Jeremiah Huffman, Andy Lopez, Brandon Hatley, Charlene Gulley; Douglas Broome, Parole Agent III; and Deidre Greene, Parole Agent I.

From April 17-21, the Career Pathways 180 re-entry employment program was offered. The ambitious program provided four days of “soft skills” development, followed by a graduation ceremony and mini job fair.

The City of Inglewood, as a result of being the new home of the National Football League’s Chargers and Rams, is in the process of redeveloping and revitalizing its city with a new stadium, residential and commercial properties. Additionally, the neighboring cities are benefiting from Inglewood’s good fortune with their own redevelopment plans.

This exponential growth in construction jobs and other industry specific employment opportunities was the catalyst for this most recent opportunity to assist ex-offenders to find permanent employment now and in the future.

With the assistance of the Inglewood Mayor James Butts and AJCC, the Los Angeles Central Parole District was able to identify 32 ex-offenders that residing within the 11 South Bay cities of Los Angeles County (Inglewood, Hawthorne, Gardena, Lawndale, Lomita, Carson, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, and Torrance) to participate in this week-long job preparation/workshop.

A smaller focus group would provide the opportunity for individualized assistance and solicit greater group interaction. Each day began with a different motivational speaker that would inspire the participants and begin the day’s lesson on a positive note.

Each lesson plan focused on an identified “soft skill” that would be vital to develop in order to secure a job and more importantly to retain a job.

The job fair committee members determined that in order for this population to be competitive in today’s workforce, this event had to not only focus on traditional job skills but focus on and emphasize: communication skills; teamwork and collaboration; adaptability; problem solving; critical observation; and conflict resolution.  The lack of “soft skills” is the difference between non-offenders and ex-offenders obtaining and retaining permanent employment which often times places the ex-offender population at a disadvantage. It is noteworthy to mention that during the during the week, six ex-offenders were able to secure employment prior to the completion of the academy.

A job fair was offered at the end of the academy.

Throughout the week, AJCC worked diligently with this population to hone in and determine various job skills and interests. Once identified, each participant was matched with an employer in their respective job industry.

The remaining 26 parolees began the week with frowns, however by week’s end they had all turned into smiles.  At the graduation ceremony, participants were encouraged to invite their support systems, friends and family, to the event. It was evident that on this day, by all of the cheers, laughter, and genuine appreciation, that everyone involved in this event had a sense of accomplishment.  The overwhelming theme for the week-long event was to have individuals invest in themselves for a better today and tomorrow. All participants seized upon this opportunity to better themselves for their families and communities.

The LA Central Parole District continues to focus its efforts into developing and providing programs and services that will assist the ex-offender population in the short term and in the long term. With each investment made in this population, it is the district’s the hope and wish that a person’s life is forever changed.

Some of the Job Fair Committee members are, from left, PA III Douglas Broome, PA III Joan Bys, PA I Deidre Greene, PA I Markeisha Brignac, PA III Jamaal Hall and PA II Ignacio Arce.

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