Skilled to Work: Second Chance Job Fairs aim to connect underemployed and parolees to available jobs

Event organizers said the job fairs were inspired by one held in Birmingham last year.

Posted: Feb 7, 2019 12:44 PM
Updated: Feb 7, 2019 5:41 PM

Dozens of people shuffled from booth to booth Thursday morning in Decatur. The folks at Ingalls Harbor were eagerly looking at a wide array of job opportunities at the Second Chance Job Fair.

A number of those who passed through face a unique challenge when hunting for a job: they have a criminal record.

Dozens of employers were on hand at the Second Chance Job Fair in Decatur on Thursday. All of the booths present represented available jobs across the Tennessee Valley. Dozens of employers were on hand at the Second Chance Job Fair in Decatur on Thursday. All of the booths present represented available jobs across the Tennessee Valley.

“It was kind of like a shocker at first because I didn't really think that nothing like that existed,” said Chris Minor.

Minor is about a month into his parole. He said the Second Chance Job Fair gives him the chance to talk with employers who won’t automatically dismiss him for past offenses.

“Coming out of prison, I thought people really would give you a chance like they're giving us. So I think it's awesome,” said Minor.

Organizers told WAAY 31, this is the first Second Chance Job Fair being hosted in north Alabama. Penny Townson, the vice president of Morgan County Economic Development, said a similar fare in Birmingham inspired it.

She added that an unemployment level below three percent is forcing companies to find creative methods to fill the demand for workers.

“Our unemployment hasn’t been low enough that you’ve had to get more creative about where you find that work and we really do now,” said Townson.

The job fair is not only aimed at people who have criminal pasts, but also those who are underemployed.

“That’s about 10,000 in Morgan County. These are people who are working in jobs,but are capable of doing more and are consistently looking for more work. That's one group we want to make sure we’re hitting,” said Townson.

And Morgan County isn’t alone in this effort. On February 27, Madison County will host its own Second Chance Job Fair at the Jaycee Community Building on Airport Road.

Lydia Pennington, the industry relations director for the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, said both counties were interested in the idea of such a job fair. They believe working together creates a greater impact.

“We both were interested in hosting this type of job fair and it gives a regional approach and also helps with our voice to reach a larger audience,” said Pennington.

On Thursday and Friday, there are also seminars hosted at Calhoun’s Adult Education center to teach skills like resume formatting and navigating an interview. Sessions are held twice a day: from 9 a.m. to noon and the other from 1 p.m. till 4 p.m.

“We have to give them tools that they can actually use and then allow them to use them and then we critique that so that they have something to go out and actually use,” said Brenda Bryson, an instructor at Alabama Ready to Work.

Meanwhile, Minor remarks that events like the pair of Second Chance Job Fairs are invaluable for someone like him, who’s just trying to make a positive impact on the community as part of the workforce.

“Probably becoming a truck driver. I already got my CDS and had my CDS for 20 plus years. So I'll probably get back in the trucking industry,” said Minor.

To register for the job fair in Huntsville, click here.

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