A “Pathway to Second Chances”
The technology sector, in contrast, has not traditionally been perceived as an industry that provides opportunity for people with criminal records. WIA, which includes wireless carriers, infrastructure providers, and firms that own and manage over 140,000 telecommunications facilities throughout the United States, is working to change that. The industry’s rapid innovation and scale have created an unprecedented need for expanding its workforce, and WIA sees this as an argument to increase support for fair chance hiring and training.
WIA was instrumental in launching the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP), which seeks to engage people with criminal records in apprenticeship training. Tim House, WIA’s executive vice president, sees the program as a “pathway to second chances.” WIA became the U.S. Department of Labor-recognized National Sponsor in 2017 and participation in the TIRAP network has grown to 52 companies and training for 11 occupations. Apprentices earn a national credential, recognized by the Department of Labor, in occupations including wireless technicians, tower technicians, and utilities workers, that are valid with any of the participating companies.
“5G is expected to create 4.6 million direct and indirect jobs in the next decade,” says House. “Our industry is explicit about eliminating collateral consequences (for people with records) and engaging with diverse, underrepresented populations to meet an unprecedented demand for skilled labor.”
Industry Organizations and the Power of the Group
The experiences of NABTU and WIA illustrate how industry and labor associations, with constituencies of employers and workers, can play a key role in amplifying the value of fair chance hiring and fair chance training to individual employers. They can also elevate efforts to ensure these practices advance industry workforce needs.
Here are some specific actions industry and labor organizations can take to give people reentering the community after incarceration a fair chance:
- Mobilize collective commitment to make fair chance hiring a routine part of talent development and expand training opportunities for people with records.
- Provide sector-specific guidance for employers to implement fair chance hiring and to offer industry-recognized training for people with records.
- Ensure that diversity goals are at the heart of efforts to expand the talent pipeline for each industry—and that these efforts include people with records.
Creating these connections matters when it comes to maintaining momentum for fair chance hiring and training, Kriger of NABTU says. “A group action will be stronger. It will impact the entire industry not just an individual employer.”