For CSC’s Employment Coordinators, helping offenders find jobs is just the beginning

Ask someone what the term “employment services” encompasses, and typical responses might include simple tasks like resume-building, interview preparation or providing access to a job board.

When it comes to employment services for federal offenders, however, the complexity level increases rapidly.

For CSC Employment Coordinators like Elias Constantatos, who works for the CORCAN Employment and Employability Program team, finding the right job for the right offender – a significant challenge in and of itself – is just the beginning.

“What people don’t realize is that, often, the most important thing is helping someone to maintain the job once they get it,” says Elias, who started working for CSC as an employment services contractor in 2000 before eventually being hired full-time by the organization in 2007. “That’s where the real challenges come into play.”

While an offender might have the technical skills necessary to qualify for a position, for example, they might lack the “soft skills” required to thrive long-term.

 “So it’s the maintenance – helping them keep the job – that’s the most important part of it,” Elias explains. “Getting into the job isn’t the hardest, it’s helping them sustain the job that’s the hardest component to it.”

That involves not only continually coaching the offenders through whatever issues they might be facing, but also building relationships with potential employers and sometimes acting as a diplomat once an offender is hired.

Employment Coordinators like Elias, who is based in Toronto, keep an open, back-and-forth dialogue with employers in order to ease any fears they might have about issues that might arise from hiring an offender. 

“I have a company now that hires from me in high numbers, offenders seem to thrive there, they seem to be getting promoted from within, they don’t feel any of the stigmatization, they don’t feel any of the mistreatment that they got from previous employers,” he says. “It’s an incredible relationship, and I’m texting and calling this (employer) on a daily basis, answering any issue, from the most minor issues like, ‘this guy seemed like he was upset yesterday, what seems to be the problem?’”

Elias has found numerous employers who are willing to work with him and have the patience to deal with challenges as they come.  Changing offender demographics have also shifted the way Employment Coordinators who work in the community approach the job hunt.

In the early part of his career, Elias worked more often with older offenders who had an “old-school mentality” – they accepted the stigma attached to criminality and the low-pay, short-term jobs that came with it.

Now, in Toronto, he’s dealing with a younger population that requires both short- and long-term career planning and has a desire for jobs that’ll weave them into society. They want to be able to afford a house and maintain a family one day.

“I think it’s a sign of the times, I think it’s a sign of young people not necessarily accepting those stigmas,” Elias explains. “You know, ‘we’ve been arrested, charged, or whatever, but we still have the right to function as citizens and be capable of some of these aspirations.’”

Finding an employment path that leads offenders toward those aspirations and away from a life of crime can be especially challenging in Canada’s larger centres.

“A place like Toronto, for example, the cost of housing is astronomical, the cost of living is astronomical, and these guys know that,” he says. “That’s why, typically, a lot of them go to jail for monetary driven crimes … it’s not a friendly place to live, financially, so setting up a strategy for somebody to get a job over $20 an hour, that’s the crux of the issue.”

Getting offenders there to buy in to the possibility of not just having a job, but a sustainable, good-paying position is critical in order to prevent them from falling back into negative cycles.

“To me, that’s the ultimate success,” he says. “If I can dissuade someone from living a criminal lifestyle and earning a legitimate income like most people do, then that’s what I consider a success.”

CSC’s Employment and Employability Program helps offenders develop and enhance their employment skills to meet the specific demands of the labour market, thereby improving their chances of employment and safe release into the community. CORCAN staff and contractors work closely with case management teams, community partners and employers. Learn more about CORCAN programs on our website.

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Is this an offender or a Staff? He looks like an offender.