Category Archives: hiring

H-1B: Disney Retreats; DOL Investigates

The Walt Disney Co.’s Disney ABC Television Group appears to be backing off from a layoff announcement two weeks ago, in which it had told a group of approximately 35 of its IT workers that their jobs were being outsourced to Cognizant Technology Solutions, a New Jersey-based company with large overseas operations. But now, reports Computerworld, those IT workers have been told that the layoff has been canceled.

Some of the IT workers who were to be laid off were told by Disney/ABC managers they would have to train their replacements before leaving, Computerworld reports. This is, of course, reminiscent of the move by Disney’s Parks and Resorts division to outsource 250 IT jobs to workers allegedly brought in under the H-1B visa program and have many of those employees train their replacements in order to receive severance. The furor this created when it was reported recently by mainstream publications such as the New York Times may have led Disney to cancel the latest layoffs, a source told Computerworld.

“They [Disney officials] want this to go away — right now,” said the source, a Disney/ABC IT employee who asked not to be named.

A source at Disney confirmed to Computerworld that the layoff had been rescinded. Although Cognizant is a major user of H-1B visas, it is unclear whether any of the workers in the Disney/ABC project had been brought in under the program.

Other companies besides Disney have come under fire for replacing their IT workers with H-1B visa holders, including Southern California Edison. The Department of Labor has announced it will investigate two outsourcing companies, Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services, for possible violations of rules for H-1B visa holders in conjunction with work they did for Southern California Edison. Those two companies, along with several others, are the biggest recipients of H-1B visa allotments each year. Sen. Bill Nelson, D.-Fla., has also called for an investigation of the H-1B program.

The fracas continues to focus more negative attention on the H-1B program. In a post on his blog, longtime tech observer and consultant Robert X. Cringely labels the  H-1B program “a scam” and says the argument that it’s necessary due to a shortage of technical talent here in the United States is false. He quotes an anonymous source, identified as a former chief technology officer at several companies, who said that — throughout his career — H-1B visa holders were routinely brought in by companies as a cheaper alternative to hiring more-expensive American tech workers: “The reason of course was $$$.  The H1B’s cost approx. 1/3rd or 1/4th the cost of the comparable American in the same job.”

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Overcoming the Barriers Disabled Americans Face

On July 26, it will be 25 years since George H. W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act, legislation that prohibited discrimination in employment, public accommodation and a number of other areas.

ThinkstockPhotos-457783527At the time of the signing, the president said …

“I know there may have been concerns that the ADA may be too vague or too costly, or may lead endlessly to litigation. But I want to reassure you right now that my administration and the United States Congress have carefully crafted this Act. We’ve all been determined to ensure that it gives flexibility, particularly in terms of the timetable of implementation; and we’ve been committed to containing the costs that may be incurred … . Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

Whether or not that “shameful wall of exclusion” has actually fallen is debatable. But with the release on Wednesday of a study titled the 2015 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey, there’s now further evidence that people with disabilities are striving to work and are having some success in overcoming many of the barriers that have stood in the way. (Kessler unveiled the results to policymakers on Capitol Hill.)

Take the following finding in this study of 3,013 Americans with disabilities that was commissioned by the West Orange, N.J.-based Kessler Foundation and conducted by the University of New Hampshire: Nearly 69 percent of those surveyed are either working, looking for work or have worked since the onset of the disability.

“This clearly demonstrates that people with disabilities are ready and able to contribute their talents in the workforce,” says Kessler Foundation President and CEO Rodger DeRose.

Diving a little deeper into the data, the researchers found that Americans with disabilities who are employed work an average of 35.5 hours per week, with just over 60 percent of those working more than 40 hours per week.

The research did confirm, as might be expected, that many Americans with disabilities continue to encounter formidable barriers as they look for work, with the top three being the lack of sufficient education or training, employers that assume they can’t do the job and the lack of transportation. Then, once in the workplace, they face hurdles such as getting less pay than others in a similar job, negative attitudes of supervisors and negative attitudes of co-workers.

But, as mentioned earlier, the report does go on to make the point that a substantial percentage of the respondents are successfully overcoming many of these challenges. Of the 36 percent who reported employers assumed they couldn’t do a job, for instance, around 33 percent said they were able to overcome that barrier. Similarly, of the nearly 17 percent who said they were getting less pay than others in similar positions, nearly 39 indicated they were able to surmount that hurdle.

Earlier today, I asked John O’Neill, director  of employment and disability research at the Kessler Foundation, which of the findings surprised him most.

O’Neill specifically cited the finding that transportation may not be as significant a barrier as some have previously contended.

“When people think of barriers to job search, transportation is one of the first things to come to mind,” he says. “Yet of those looking for jobs, only 25 percent said they faced that barrier. Add, on top of that, that 42 percent of those facing that barrier had overcome it, and it would seem to be not as looming an issue as many people might have thought in the past.”

As for a takeaway for HR leaders, O’Neill points to the attitudes of supervisors and co-workers.

Roughly 16 percent of those with disabilities cited they had experienced barriers resulting from supervisors’ attitudes and about the same proportion experienced barriers resulting from co-workers’ attitudes, he says. But when you ask them about their ability to overcome those barriers, he adds, about 41 percent reported they were able to do so and 54 percent reported the same, respectively.

“Those figures,” he says, “are higher than I would have thought—and says that, while they’re [still] issues, people are finding ways to negotiate and work with their supervisors in terms of how they are being perceived.”

There no question a lot more work needs to be done when it comes to ridding the workplace of the many and varying barriers facing those with disabilities. But it’s also nice to see new research suggesting they aren’t insurmountable.

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Dealing With The Cultural Fit Conundrum

fitting in 2Anyone familiar with the Beatles backstory knows the role Pete Best plays in it.

Best, of course, was the drummer famously replaced by Ringo Starr in August 1962, just weeks before the band recorded “Love Me Do,” exploded upon popular culture and began its climb to the toppermost of the poppermost.

In the 50-plus years since that fateful personnel move, many close to the group have said the decision to boot Best maybe wasn’t as much about Starr being the better technical drummer as it was about Ringo being “the better Beatle.”

In other words, Starr had the type of personality, sense of humor, interests and values that better meshed with the rest of the boys in the band, and helped give the group a certain indefinable chemistry. Ringo, you could say, was the better cultural fit for the Beatles.

The term “cultural fit” didn’t really exist in 1962, in the workplace or anywhere else. But, over time, employers everywhere have certainly cottoned on to the idea that it takes more than just technical proficiency to truly excel in a particular organization or outfit.

The notion first gained a toehold in the corporate world in the 1980s, Lauren Rivera recently wrote in a New York Times opinion piece, in which she says the “cultural fit” concept has sort of run amok in the three decades since.

“In many organizations, fit has gone rogue,” noted Rivera, an associate professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

When done right, taking cultural fit into consideration can greatly boost productivity and profitability, she said. The problem today, is that “cultural fit has morphed into a far more nebulous and potentially dangerous concept.”

The effort to determine cultural fit has moved from “systemic analysis of who will thrive in a given workplace to snap judgments by managers about who they’d rather hang out with,” she says. “In the process, fit has become a catchall used to justify hiring people who are similar to decision makers and rejecting people who are not.”

Rivera should know a thing or two about this issue, having once spent nine months researching recruiting and hiring practices at a handful of top U.S. investment banks, management consultancies and law firms, conducting interviews with 120 decision makers at the aforementioned organizations.

She found that interviewers commonly relied on the sense of empathy they felt with job candidates in order to judge potential fit for the firm. While discovering shared experiences helped those doing the hiring form bonds with applicants, many decision makers were “primarily interested in new hires whose hobbies, hometowns and biographies matched their own,” she recounted in the Times.

Conversely, candidates’ backgrounds, personal interests and even sports allegiances could occasionally work against them. For instance, Rivera recalled attending a hiring committee meeting at one firm, where she witnessed a partner and “avid Red Sox fan” advocate the rejection of an applicant and self-avowed Yankees supporter “on the grounds of misfit.”

Even putting such extreme examples aside, Rivera concludes that hiring too many employees who reflect those already in the organization is a dangerous idea, for a lot of reasons.

“Some may wonder, ‘Don’t similar people work better together?’ Yes and no. For jobs involving complex decisions and creativity, more diverse teams outperform less diverse ones,” according to Rivera.

“Too much similarity can lead to teams that are overconfident, ignore vital information and make poor (or even unethical) decisions.”

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Top 10 Reasons to Test Adverse Impact Correctly

This one caught my eye. Not that I’ve been a big David Letterman watcher (past my bedtime), but — as Merrily Archer put it in this 101390464 -- gavel and law booksLinkedIn post — “resuscitating the Top Ten list one last time” before it’s long forgotten was intriguing.

Even more intriguing was the content of her post, Top 10 Reasons to Acquire Adverse Impact Testing Skills — starting with 10. “The [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission]’s ‘Systemic Initiative’ to eliminate ‘discriminatory barriers in hiring’ — i.e., qualification standards — [was] launched nearly 10 years ago on April 4, 2006 — it’s not too late to catch up!” …

And ending with “the No. 1 reason HR practitioners and in-house employment counsel must understand the theory behind adverse impact analyses and how to conduct them: Turning over applicant flow data — or a hiring database — to the EEOC or in discovery that you have not analyzed for adverse impact is like disclosing a packet of documents that you’ve not read — i.e., legal malpractice!!”

Archer — an employment-discrimination litigator, legal coach and creator of the EEO Legal Solutions website — is very passionate about imparting what she knows about navigating your way through the ever-more-aggressive EEOC. She began her career as a trial attorney there and knows how it works. Or make that knows how it’s supposed to work and not supposed to work.

“I feel strongly that everyone needs to know how to test for AI and how to analyze their own hiring data, especially before turning anything over to the EEOC,” she says. “I’ve seen attorneys at big law firms hand over entire databases in response to an EEOC request for information, without having a clue about what the data actually reveals.”

For anyone who may not know, adverse impact, according to this post on USLegal.com, “refers to employment practices that appear neutral but have a discriminatory effect on a protected group. ”

More specifically, it says:

“Under the EEOC guidelines, adverse impact is defined as a substantially different rate of selection in hiring, promotion or other employment decision which works to the disadvantage of members of a race, sex or ethnic group. The EEOC agencies have adopted a rule of thumb under which they will generally consider a selection rate for any race, sex or ethnic group which is less than four-fifths or 80 percent of the selection rate for the group with the highest selection rate as a substantially different rate of selection. The selection rates for males and females are compared, and the selection rates for the race and ethnic groups are compared with the selection rate of the race or ethnic group with the highest selection rate.”

Sounds pretty convoluted, doesn’t it? In reality, it’s all about the calculations, so EEO and legal consultants would be advised. That said, though, Archer’s No. 7 reason to acquire these skills is worth noting: “Using FREE online adverse-impact calculators … is EASY, even for the math-phobics — i.e., lawyers.”

The Center for Corporate Equality, in its Technical Advisory Committee Report on Best Practices in Adverse Impact Analyses, says determining whether selection, promotion and termination decisions result in adverse impact — i.e., whether “substantial differences in employment outcomes across groups exist” — is an extremely important topic for organizations, yet “there is limited guidance about the specific and proper ways in which these analyses should be conducted.”

In the EEOC’s “Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures,” adverse impact falls under Section 4, item D.  It doesn’t offer much in the way of calculation help, but if you’re not perfectly clear on everything it says, you’d best read up, says Archer. Better yet, consider yourself warned, by her:

“[Many] defense attorneys put employers at the mercy of the EEOC’s AI analysis, which is likely statistically flawed, based on inaccurate assumptions about the hiring process and actual applicant flow, and calculated to maximize ‘shortfalls’ — i.e., the difference between the expected and actual number of hires in that minority, gender or age group — for settlement negotiations.

“Attorneys can be so myopic: ‘If they didn’t teach it in law school, it must not be relevant.’ Unfortunately, the exact opposite is true. … This area of law is still pretty nascent, but one day soon, I’m convinced that failing to audit for AI will become malpractice — it’s just part of the standard of care and protection that employers need in the systemic era.”

A few other compelling reasons to perfect your AI skills, from Archer’s Top 10:

“9. Since the EEOC shifted its enforcement focus nearly 10 years ago, ‘systemic discrimination’ has become the new phrase that PAYS at the EEOC and among employee-side lawyers.

8. The EEOC uses specific statistical tests to measure whether a challenged practice — e.g., criminal-background check, educational standard — has an ‘adverse impact’ and to calculate damages in conciliation negotiations: HR practitioners and attorneys MUST know how the database will be analyzed and what the numbers say.

2. EEOC systemic cases that have reached litigation demonstrate a high likelihood that the EEOC will [do the AI analysis of your database incorrectly] in a way that hurts [you,] the employer.”

 

 

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Still in Search of Skilled Workers

searching for talentAnd the talent shortage continues.

That’s the simple message found in survey results released by Manpower Group this week.

In its 10th annual Talent Shortage Survey, the Milwaukee-based Manpower surveyed 41,748 employers in 42 countries and territories, “to explore the extent of talent shortages within the global labor market, which job categories are particularly hard to fill and why, the impact of talent shortages on businesses, and how employers are responding to the challenges raised by the lack of available talent in specific job categories,” according to a press release announcing the survey findings.

Globally, the percentage of employers reporting trouble in filling job vacancies continued to rise, climbing from 36 percent last year to 38 percent in 2015. The shortage is most severe for organizations in Japan, where 83 percent of hiring managers said they encounter difficulty in finding the necessary talent, while 68 percent of employers in Peru and 65 percent of respondents in Hong Kong said the same.

The prognosis here in the States, however, seems somewhat better, with 32 percent of U.S. employers saying they struggle to fill positions due to talent shortages, compared to 40 percent who reported as much in 2014.

That’s not to say that closing the talent gap isn’t still a concern here at home, of course.

Indeed, 43 percent of respondents said talent shortages are taking a toll on their organizations’ ability to meet client needs, with 32 percent saying they’ve experienced increased employee turnover, and the same percentage reporting higher compensation costs and lower employee engagement. Forty-eight percent of the U.S. employers surveyed acknowledged that talent shortages have a “medium to high impact” on business in a broader sense.

More interesting, though, is the percentage of employers seemingly taking no action to blunt that impact. That number remains relatively small, but is going up.

According to the Manpower survey, 20 percent of U.S. employers are still not pursuing strategies to overcome talent shortages in 2015—a 7 percent increase from 2014.

What remains consistent this year is the trouble American companies face in filling skilled trade vacancies. For the sixth consecutive year, “skilled trade workers” topped the list of U.S. jobs most in demand, with drivers, teachers, sales representatives and administrative professionals rounding out the top five.

“Talent shortages are real and are not going away,” said Kip Wright, senior vice president of Manpower North America, in the aforementioned press release. “Despite impacts to competitiveness and productivity, our research shows fewer employers are trying to solve the problem through better talent strategies.”

These companies fail to address the issue at their own risk, added Wright.

“As the struggle to find the right talent continues, and candidates with in-demand skills get the upper hand, employers will be under pressure to position themselves as ‘talent destinations’ to attract the best workers that will drive their business forward.”

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Doing Your Homework in the APAC Region

If there’s an underlying message in First Advantage’s latest study on background checks in the Asia Pacific region, it’s to tread carefully.

ThinkstockPhotos-122576156I received a copy of the firm’s 2014 Background Screening Trends Report for Asia Pacific the other day, analyzing 2 million of its background checks it conducted in the region. Among the findings: a 6.5 percent increase in candidates misrepresenting their curriculum vitae. Digging deeper into the data, Australia and New Zealand (27 percent) consistently recorded a higher discrepancy rate across Asia Pacific, followed by Singapore and Hong Kong (19 percent and 16 percent, respectively).

As has been the case in prior years, the discrepancy rate in China continued to be lowest among the lot, at around 9 percent in Q4.

So where are the discrepancies occurring?  In terms of employment discrepancies, 54 percent concerned employment history. The three most common education-related gaps in the region were graduation dates with a variance of more than six months (6 percent), graduation dates with a variance of less than six months (5 percent) and unconfirmed degree (3 percent).

The research also revealed that employers are beefing up their screening efforts and increasing their number of background checks, with 67 percent of all cases subjected to at least five checks in 2014, compared to 42 percent in 2013.

Mathew Glasner, South Asia managing director for First Advantage, found the lower discrepancies in the less mature and higher risk markets like Malaysia, China and the Philippines particularly interesting. “This is driven by fewer checks per screen than we typically find in the more mature markets,” he said. “In the Philippines, for example, our customers conducted, on average, only 3.5 checks per screen and uncovered only 12.8 percent discrepancies compared to Australia, where they conduct, on average, 5.2 checks per screen and uncover 26.94 percent discrepancies. This behavior is counterintuitive when you consider the risk associated with hiring into these emerging and higher risk markets.”

Among the other trends Glasner is spotting: increasing usage in the region of infinity screening—or the rechecking of existing employees’ backgrounds. “The ongoing screening of staff represents a real opportunity to mitigate fraud, financial crime and reputational risk,” he said.

It goes without saying, of course: These findings should bode well for First Advantage and other background checkers with operations in the region.

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Intel’s Putting Its Money Where Its Mouth Is

dv1080001Intel Corp.’s Diversity in Technology Initiative that Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced in January — and Senior Editor Andrew R. McIlvaine blogged about at the time — appears to be chugging along quite nicely.

In a speech delivered Wednesday at the Rainbow PUSH Silicon Valley Tech 2020 Summit, Krzanich announced some impressive progress, confirming he was dead serious four months ago when he presented plans to make Intel more representative of the U.S. population by 2020, with some $300 million dedicated to the effort.

For one, he told summit-goers, 41 percent of hires at Intel this year have been diverse, versus 32 percent last year. For another, 17 percent of senior hires in the first quarter of 2015 are underrepresented minorities and 33 percent are women, up from 6 percent and 19 percent in 2014, respectively.

He also announced that Intel has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Oakland Unified School District to commit $5 million over the next five years to implement a comprehensive, “education-transformation solution” that will create a computer-science and engineering pathway for more than 2,400 students, with a graduating cohort of 600 students over the next five years.

“We knew we wanted to do something in K-12 education that targeted underrepresented minorities and we thought we should start in our own backyard,” Krzanich says in this USA Today piece about that initiative.

Lastly, he said Wednesday, his company has committed to spending $1 billion with diverse-owned businesses by the year 2020.

In her May 6 blog post about Krzanich’s update, Rosalind L. Hudnell, Intel’s vice president of human resources and director of diversity and inclusion, addressed some of the underlying philosophies behind this push:

“Improving the diversity of our workforce and the pipeline of students going into this field is not just the right thing to do.  It’s the critical thing to do.  The people who purchase and use technology come from all walks of life.

“Without employees with diverse backgrounds, opinions and problem-solving skills, Intel can’t properly address the needs of a diverse market. Diverse teams and companies lead to greater creativity, strategic thinking and innovation. Greater diversity also results in better products and smarter business decisions. So how do we get there? This is the hard part, because diversity is a complex issue.”

In many stories we’ve written over the years about meaningful workforce initiatives, diversity included, a repeating theme has been the need for top-down buy-in and commitment to occur if any of them are to succeed and if promised goals are to be met.

Nice to see that working so well in the Intel corner of Silicon Valley.

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Tapping the Power of a Good Story

When you think of great recruiters, Ernest Shackleton probably isn’t going to be the first person to pop into your head. But if you ask Mike Pierce, who kicked off the ERE Recruiting Conference yesterday in San Diego with a keynote address titled “Tell Powerful Stories to Answer, ‘Why Should I Join Your Team,’ ” talent-acquisition leaders could learn a thing ThinkstockPhotos-151575842or two about the art of hiring (and, of course, leadership) from this early-20th-century adventurer.

As a refresher for those of you who might be a little rusty on your history, Shackleton was an Irish-born British explorer who was a principal figure during the period known as the “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.” His third attempt to reach the South Pole, aboard the Endurance, was unarguably the most famous of his endeavors.

Shackleton, along with his 27-person team, set out from London in 1914 with the goal of crossing the Antarctic by foot. Before reaching the continent, however, the Endurance became entrapped in ice, forcing Shackleton and his crew to abandon the ship and set up camp on floating ice. More than a year would pass before they would see land again. (Remarkably, the entire team survived this terrible ordeal.)

In his talk, Pierce, a San Diego-based consultant, speaker and author who goes by the nickname “Antarctic Mike,” shared with attendees how Shackleton’s story personally inspired him back in 2006 to become one of nine people to run a full 26.2-mile marathon on an ice shelf 600 miles from the South Pole, something that “never had been done before.” 

Pierce’s PowerPoint deck included a copy of a classified newspaper ad (remember those?) that Shackleton used to “recruit” his team …

“Help Wanted

For hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.”

Could he have been any more direct?

So how many people responded? 10? 50? 100? Remarkably, Pierce said, 5,000 people replied to the ad. Why? Because, he explained, Shackleton was able to write his story in a way that captured people’s attention.

Job candidates, Pierce explained said, “are looking for evidence of credibility—and a story is the most effective way to [give them that evidence].”

“Stories are the most magical vehicle on the planet to move people,” he said. “People love stories, especially those that are credible and true. They can show that you are … authentic … accessible … and for real … .”

To make his point, Pierce shared several examples of how employers have used videos to connect with job candidates, including a pretty entertaining one from Sutton Group, a Chilliwack, Canada-based realtor. (Chilliwack, in case you’re wondering, isn’t far from Vancouver.)

Referring to the Sutton Group video, Pierce said “people love it when the leaders of a company are accessible.” Well, say what you may about the Sutton video, but it’s hard to argue CEO Kelly Johnson isn’t making himself “accessible.”

The 2013 video reportedly continues to deliver results for Sutton Group today.

Pierce said he had every reason to believe everyone in the room worked at organizations with their own stories to tell. But, he asked, “are those stories out [in the market today] producing results for you? Are they out in places where people will see them and be moved by them?”

Thanks to the tools available to employers today, he said, capturing those stories and putting them out there isn’t all that hard to do.

And that, of course, begs the question: Why aren’t more organizations doing it?

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Upbeat Hiring News for 2015 Grads

There may be some early excitement on the nation’s college campuses this spring after SHRM released its Hiring of 2015 College Graduates Survey which shows that, while compensation levels may be holding steady for the newest entrants in the workforce, 35 percent of organizations have already hired college students to begin working before or after their 2015 graduation.

But even for soon-to-be grads who have yet to secure employment, there is also hope in the survey, as almost two-thirds of organizations (65 percent) have not yet hired 2015 college graduates. Of these organizations, the majority (71 percent) still plan to hire graduates, an 18 percent increase since 2013.

“During the recession, many companies may not have focused recruiting efforts on college graduates because of a lack of openings and limited turnover. But now we are beginning to see entry-level hiring pick up,” said Evren Esen, director of survey programs at SHRM. “Compared to recent years, 2015 college graduates can be optimistic in their job search.”

Not to brag, but Editor David Shadovitz wrote about the upturn in grad hiring last December on HREOnline.com.

In that piece, Shadovitz discussed with Philip Gardner, director of Michigan State University’s College Employment Research Institute in East Lansing, Mich., how the upturn in hiring could affect employers’ college-recruiting efforts:

“The last couple of years,” Gardner says, “they were able to finish recruiting [by October] and didn’t have to do a lot of work in the spring, but that’s changing. Now, they’re going deeper and deeper into the [college] year and are starting to see reneges going up.”

And with more good news on the college hiring front likely on the way (shaking an angry fist at embargoed material), this should serve as a good reminder to HR organizations to keep their top college recruits in the loop as much as possible.

To ensure these candidates don’t “drift away,” Gardner advises employers to pay much closer attention to “staying in touch” with them once offers are made and “involve them in the [business] sooner.”

And judging from this SHRM survey’s 35-percent figure cited above, it seems that getting “involved in the business” early is also becoming more important for both college students and grads.

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More in the Coffer to Help Prisoners Find Jobs

It wasn’t that long ago (little more than a month) that I was blogging about an announcement by the U.S. Department of Labor that it was 126268666 -- prisoner workingcreating a $5 million funding opportunity to link inmates to jobs before they’re even released.

The idea there was to place American Job Centers inside local jails where soon-to-be-released prisoners would be able to access job-placement services and counseling to increase their chances of getting work without going through that uneasy “limbo” between living behind bars and earning a living.

Now, again from the DOL, comes significantly more, as this release announces: a whopping $27 million to fund its Training to Work-Adult Re-entry grant program to help, as its release says, “thousands of soon-to-be-released inmates become productive citizens.”

I wish I could tell you specifically how the two programs differ. Numerous calls and emails to the DOL went unanswered. But that doesn’t really matter. What does is the added help — significant help — ex-cons will be getting to rejoin the workforce and the world.

According to the announcement, the department expects to award about 20 grants with a maximum value of $1,360,000 each to provide training and employment services for men and women, ages 18 and older (including veterans), who participate in state or local work-release programs.

The approach is designed to link and coordinate education and training services for these people to get industry-recognized credentials. Those credentials will, in turn, help them find meaningful work (translated: not just assembly line and blue-collar) and give employers what they need to fill their gaps in growing sectors and industries.

Having personal experience with this — a relative who is now trying to re-enter society after paying his dues for some very bad life choices — I confess, what U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez has to say about this latest move resonates with me:

“A good job gives a person a sense of dignity and purpose. It enables [him or her] to find a decent place to live and enjoy a hot meal at home. Good jobs are a pathway to the middle class. Those who have paid their debt to society deserve the opportunity to find and hold useful employment. It puts money in their pocket, most of which is pumped back into the economy. In the best America, everyone shares our prosperity. That’s what these grants can make possible.”

Of course, all the money in the world can’t buy a guarantee that all hiring managers will leave all bias at the door when they enter the interview room. Or follow all the steps of the interview process laid out by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in its background-check guidelines, including when it’s appropriate to discuss an applicant’s past incarceration.

But it’s safe to say most employers would have to look favorably on an ex-prisoner’s initiative to get the education and credentialing he or she needs to succeed in that particular job in that particular organization in that particular industry.

If there are closed minds out there, this can only help to open them.

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