On Wednesday, July 17, 2019, Carolinas AGC (CAGC) Foundation’s Build Your Career (BYC) Initiative co-hosted a “Re-Entry Career Fair” in Columbia, S.C. with the REEMERGE prison reintegration program. This event was strategically designed to assist formerly incarcerated individuals find gainful employment with local employers to facilitate a successful “life beyond the fence” transition for these folks.
Based in the Midlands region of South Carolina, REEMERGE is a reintegration and employment placement program for the formerly incarcerated, in direct affiliation with SC Works with grant funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The 6 to 12-month comprehensive REEMERGE program uses coaching and mentoring, education, employment and entrepreneurship to assist individuals transitioning from the penal system back into mainstream society.
The primary goals of the BYC-REEMERGE Re-entry Career Fair were to:
- Provide career guidance, professional support and mentoring to eligible participants.
- Facilitate relationships between qualified employees and employers.
- Moderate the process between employee placement and employment transition.
- Offer multiple onsite transitional support services to program participants.
Almost a dozen inmates from the SC Department of Corrections and over 60 REEMERGE program participants attended the event along with many CAGC employers — Contract Construction, Smith-Midland, Insight Group and HardHat Workforce Solutions, just to name a few. Services offered on site included: Pro bono expungement services provided by Dawn Sloan, an attorney formerly with the Richland County Solicitor’s Office; employer registration for wage reimbursement and bonding services provided by SCWorks; transitional support services provided by Goodwill; peer-to-peer mentoring services provided by the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition, as well as Path 2 Redemption, and more.
The re-entry career fair saw a great turnout for a first-time event, and as a result of the day’s activities and participation from local employers, there were job offers extended to 18 attending REEMERGE program participants and one official direct hire!
Insight Group, a newly formed geotechnical, environmental and materials testing firm based in Charleston, S.C. — and the newest addition to the CAGC Family of members — was so impressed by a remarkable REEMERGE candidate who had over 27 years of experience working in the construction industry, that they initiated the hiring process immediately. Matt Silveston, a P.E. with Insight Group, and Insight Partner Reg Christopher, attended the career fair on behalf of their company with the goal of recruiting some much-needed new talent. Mr. Silveston gave his testimonial about the day’s events and the value of attending. “We believe in second chances, and the Build Your Career initiative through CAGC is a way that Insight Group can help deliver positive change to an individual’s life and impact our community.”
When asked to comment on the value Insight Group received from attending the re-entry career fair and their return on investment from being there, Matt Silveston went on to say, “The Insight Group partners and engineers immediately seized upon the opportunity that Build Your Career presented because they recognized that they have all been prosperous in their lives and careers and wanted to help others who have not been so fortunate. After attending this first BYC-REEMERGE Career Fair, we were able to identify a candidate to fill an inspector position.”
Because Insight Group has already made one direct-hire as a result of attending the Re-entry Career Fair, that is solid evidence that the event was indeed a successful and noteworthy project that when eventually replicated on a larger scale throughout the Carolinas, will truly have a significant impact on addressing the labor shortage within the construction industry while also reducing the rates of recidivism.
Meghan Ketterman, Director of Business Development for Contact Construction and current CAGC Board Trustee, remarked on why Contract wanted to participate as an employer vendor in the reintegration career fair. “Contract Construction is proud to be part of the inaugural BYC-REEMERGE Career Fair. We pride ourselves on building people first and foremost and we will continue to support this program as we face an industry-wide workforce shortage.” Contract Construction also proudly sponsored lunch for the career fair and has pledged to not only continue supporting the BYC-REEMERGE partnership program and attend upcoming re-entry career fairs, but they have also pledged to hire any employee candidates fitting in with the Contract Construction business model that they meet through the program in the future.
Another participating CAGC member that attended the re-entry event, Lori Hardaway, Territory Manager at HardHat Workforce Solutions, also commented on the value of her company having a presence at the career fair by stating, “HardHat Workforce Solutions is excited about being a part of this re-entry program. We often struggle with finding people who truly want to work and the folks coming through REEMERGE fit that bill. We, at Hardhat, are always looking for ways to help our community. Providing jobs for people who are looking for a second chance is a great way to help everyone involved.” Attending the event proved to be highly beneficial to Hardhat Workforce Solutions because they were able to schedule many follow up appointments with the REEMERGE participants to register for employment placement and résumés.
In summary, a few of the vast employer benefits to registering with SCWorks and enrolling are:
- Skilled workers trained to industry/employer specifications
- A pipeline for new, skilled workers
- Wage reimbursement for employers (moderated through SCWorks affiliate ResCare, Inc.)
- Reduced turnover
- Qualification for Work Opportunity Tax Credits
Overall, the inaugural BYC-REEMERGE “Re-Entry Career Fair” was an amazing success! On behalf of the Carolinas AGC Foundation’s Build Your Career workforce development initiative, we would like to extend our most sincere gratitude to all who participated in the re-entry career fair — our attending employers, our CAGC member employer firms, SCWorks, the SC Department of Corrections participants, and all the volunteers offering services on site. The ongoing support of employer firms is vital to the success of re-entry programs like REEMERGE and assisting these folks transitioning from the prison systems and finding them gainful employment upon release is imperative to their success as well. This was the first in a series of upcoming career fairs/hiring expos BYC and REEMERGE will offer in 2020. We hope to see representatives from each of our loyal CAGC member firms at our future events — proudly representing your companies while recruiting some new talent!
For more information on how you can enroll your SC company in the REEMERGE program, please contact the Build Your Career Program Director, Tammy Ford, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (704) 995-3901. You can also read more about the program by visiting the REEMERGE website or by contacting Nicole Holland, REEMERGE Project Manager, at (803) 722-1775 or via email at email@example.com.