When Employment to Empowerment (E2E) began in September 2014, the challenge was to create 400 jobs for offenders in the Pacific Region. Bobbi Sandhu, Warden, Kent Institution was selected as the champion of the project, and Lisa Bayne, Programs Manager, Vancouver Community Corrections was designated as project manager. When E2E began working with ethnocultural offenders, they approached their region’s Regional Ethnocultural Advisory Committee (REAC) to ask for feedback on what an ethnocultural inmate needs to be ready to work.
“With the support of the REAC and the National Ethnocultural Advisory Committee (NEAC) we have managed to see an increase in the employment rate in the Pacific Region from 60.2% to 71.9% in just two years,” stated Lisa.
When E2E began, they knew that many of their ethnocultural community parolees were already employed. However, the type of work they were doing was for low income jobs. A major focus of the work of E2E has been to help offenders get more sustainable and fulfilling work through a number of free vocational training opportunities to enhance both their soft (motivation, communication, interpersonal skills and attitudes) and vocational skills.
“The goal of E2E is to ensure that each and every offender is able to get the tools and supports necessary to find a career, not just a job.”
With the information they received from REAC, E2E worked with Dawn Mathe, a job developer at Buxton Consulting and Garrison Duke, founder of Pathsetter Career Coaching Services to create a series of ethnocultural seminars to be run in the institutions. The seminars covered topics ranging from breaking down communication barriers, to work ethic, to getting feedback from an employer.
E2E also wanted to ensure that ethnocultural offenders were able to access employment services. Partnered with the John Howard Society and ethnocultural services, they planned a series of ethnocultural focused employment events at each institution called “Inclusion at Work!” This gave community services the opportunity to meet them first hand and establish a supportive relationship.
E2E has also developed a number of productive relationships with agencies, such as the BC Construction Association and WorkBC, to expand the services available to ex-offenders. These relationships have resulted in multiple employment and development opportunities for offenders. Additional employment focused activities for both offenders and inmates include:
- Three learning and networking days attended by over 20 employers from the community.
- Hiring day at the parole office with a major employer
- 25 monthly newsletters with employment tips, best practices and featured partners
- Creation of a document to ensure accurate OMS data collection for employment
- Creation of an online document for parole officers to access Work Release and Unescorted Temporary Absence (WR/UTA) information, free and low cost training opportunities, and employment support in a quick and easy to navigate way. WR/UTA are release permits from institutions that are granted to inmates who are stable and motivated for the purpose of employment, medical, compassionate or personal development.
“When we began, we made a lot of new relationships with employers willing to hire offenders. Within a year we had to slow down on our employer development because we had far more jobs to fill than we had offenders to fill those positions. Employers are increasingly looking at parolees as a solution to their workforce needs," said Lisa.
It has been proven that ex-offender stability is linked to long-term reintegration success. The key to their success is helping offenders get stable employment that matches their skills and interests. As a result, the Pacific Region has the lowest re-admission rate in the country.
“REAC and NEAC have been an integral part of the success of the E2E project. Their advice on ethnocultural offenders contributed greatly to our direction and their support of the project as a whole has been valuable to our success,” added Bobbi.
Offenders are building careers, not just filling jobs, and this is good for public safety.