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A Fair Chance at a Fresh Start

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks at the launch of on the steps of the Hall of Administration. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

Los Angeles County launched the Fair Chance Campaign, urging businesses to give all competent job applicants a fair chance at employment, including those seeking a fresh start after being in the justice system.

“Hiring justice-involved individuals is not only good for business, but provides an opportunity to transform lives,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Stable employment can help individuals reenter society with the tools they need to lead healthy and productive lives, leading to greater safety in our communities.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Hilda L. Solis coauthored motions to establish fair chance hiring policies for those seeking LA County government jobs, and to create a fair chance ordinance for businesses that contract with LA County or do business with unincorporated areas.

“Today, we challenge employers to think outside the box when making their hiring decisions,” Supervisor Solis said. “Studies clearly show that hiring rehabilitated people with past records is a smart business move: they work harder, stay longer, and promote faster than other employees. LA County also offers incentives and support to businesses that hire individuals who have been justice-involved. Everyone deserves a fair chance to get back on their feet – and when they do, everyone benefits.”

The Fair Chance Campaign does not seek to give anyone preferential treatment, nor does it call for hiring an unqualified person with an arrest or conviction record. Instead, it is intended to eliminate discriminatory obstacles for competent candidates, with the goal of boosting the economy, promoting public safety, and reducing dependence on public benefits.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Vincent Bragg, who founded the advertising agency ConCreates. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

Research shows approximately one in three working-age Americans has a felony criminal record and up to 65 percent of individuals released from incarceration are unemployed a year after release. Yet, according to the Society of Human Resource Managers, the largest human resource professional organization in the world, 82 percent of managers believe the quality of work by formerly incarcerated individual is just as high or even higher than that of the rest of their workforce.

“There is a great need for work opportunities among members of the reentry community,” said Vincent Bragg, who founded the advertising agency ConCreates after leaving prison and is one of many reentry success stories. “Too many of us have been undervalued and overlooked because of complex circumstances. It is vital to have programs like this that can help move the needle toward meaningful change.”

“We have been hiring reentry individuals for several years and can attest to the dedication, reliability and incredible work ethic of our justice-involved employees,” AMS Fulfillment chief workforce development officer Ken Wiseman said. “It is great to see the County offering incentives to businesses that hire from this pool of qualified, talented people.”

As part of the Fair Chance Campaign, business executives will be asked to sign the Fair Chance Hiring Pledge, which is a commitment to provide justice-involved individuals a fair chance to participate and to thrive in our economy by promoting fair chance hiring practices.

Companies that sign the pledge will receive guidance from County Business Services Representatives who will work with them to recruit and keep qualified candidates. The County connects businesses to tax credits, training reimbursement, and other resources when they hire qualified workers who were once incarcerated.

The Fair Chance Hiring Campaign also seeks to raise awareness of California’s Fair Chance Act, which went into effect in January 2018. The law generally prohibits businesses with more than five employees from asking about a job candidate’s criminal record before tendering a conditional job offer.

Leaders on the Move to Upgrade LA

(left to right) Gloria Gray, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Monique Earl, and Dominique DiPrima at the African-American History Month Business Breakfast. All photos by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

More than 150 small business owners, faith leaders and community leaders gathered for the fourth annual “Meet the Decision Makers” African-American History Month Business Breakfast, at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, to celebrate and learn from three dynamic officials – L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Metropolitan Water District Chairwoman Gloria Gray, and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation Assistant General Manager, Monique Earl. Mike Fong,  Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) Board President, as well as representatives from the offices of Senator Kamala Harris, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and State Controller Betty Yee were present. KJLH radio personality, Dominique DiPrima served as mistress of ceremony.

Meet the Decision Makers strives to connect small and minority business owners with real contracting opportunities in the public and private sectors. In 2016, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas introduced a motion for the County to have one billion, 25 percent, of its procurement to be made available to small businesses by 2020. Upgrade LA also announced that Skanska USA has spent over $200 Million dollars with minority and disadvantaged business owners over the past five years in the LA region.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas speaks to 150 small business owners.

In a call to action to those in the room, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said “Bureaucracy is structured to create barriers to bring resources to small businesses.”  He encouraged small business leaders and participants to “show up, lead, and make sure that we have an opportunity to hear from you to impact meaningful change throughout Los Angeles.”

Chairwoman Gloria Gray shared words of wisdom with the audience, stating that “Water should be a way of life. Water conservation is very important” and Monique Earl emphasized that, “Transportation sits at the center of social justice in which leadership matters, representation matters, having power matters. The question is, what are you going to do with it?”

Meet the Decision Makers was established as a public forum in 2014 to connect elected officials and major public sector decision-makers with small business owners, faith leaders and engaged citizens.

EMT Program Inspires Young Women to Improve their Lives by Saving Others

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas recognizes the first female cohort of the Los Angeles Emergency Medical Technician pilot program during the February 12, 2019 board meeting. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas honored the first all-female and the final cohort of the intensive five-monthLos Angeles Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) pilot program designed to introduce young adults to sustainable career pathways in the public safety and health sectors.

“It wasn’t easy, but you persisted. You’ve achieved this milestone and you are one step closer to your ultimate dream career goal,” he told them. “No matter your selected path, rest assured the demand for professionals in the health and public safety industries are already high and projected to continue growing over the next decade.”

The earn and learn program provides career-technical education, life coaching and leadership development, and job placement assistance, mentoring, and integrated supportive services.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby shares remarks at the board meeting. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

“The motto of the LA County Fire Department is Proud Protectors of Life and Property and we have found people who had a need to be mentored and to be developed,” said LA County Fire Chief Daryl Osby. “I saw these young ladies five months ago and to see their growth is just amazing.”

Graduates are guaranteed employment after successfully completing the program. Working as an EMT can lead to careers as nurses, physician assistants, firefighters and doctors.

“For me personally, this class was definitely a second chance,” said Zayana Ross-Torrance, one of the new graduates. “I am grateful for programs like this that let some of us take our first steps into the medical field and I’m glad to have these ladies continue on this journey with me.”

LA EMT Program participant speaks to the Board of Supervisors. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

LA EMT Program partners include the Workers Education and Resource Center, Central Baptist Church, the Los Angeles County Stentorians, and McCormick Ambulance.

The success of this model was identified in the County’s Preparing Los Angeles for County Employment, or PLACE program, as a pipeline for training potential future firefighters.

“This program goes back to 8 years ago when I was appointed and wanted to do things in the community to make a significant difference,” said Chief Osby. “We have maintained this commitment and this is the fruit of our labor.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women are unrepresented as firefighters and the percentage of women firefighters in the County and City of LA is slightly below the national average at 2 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

More than 70 young adults have participated in the program since it launched its first cohort in May 2017.

Aiming High and Saving Lives

Photo by Diandra Jay, Board of Supervisors

After five months of intensive classroom and in-the-field training, it’s graduation day for the first class of EMT LA students. The program is a partnership between the Office of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Workers Education and Resource Center with funding support from the California Endowment.

“This pilot program is a win-win. Our young men of color deserve access to the best opportunities,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “And our communities deserve first rate emergency medical technicians.”

On the heels of a successful recent program in Alameda County, 21 young men from Los Angeles County’s Second District and their accountability partners, made up of parents, friends or significant others, participated in the orientation and kickoff at Central Baptist Church in Carson. Representatives from the Los Angeles County Departments of Children and Family Services, Probation, and Fire were on hand to provide words of wisdom and to participate in the launch of the program.

“In my neighborhood, my friends don’t know it’s possible to become a fire-fighter,” said Renard Page, a program participant.

The five month intensive program included technical skill development, life skill building and culminated with EMT certification. The young men selected through a rigorous application process earned a training stipend of $1,200 per month.

“The goal is to invest in young men so the return can be paid back to this community,” said Kenneth Lee from the LA County Fire Department.

The graduation was marked by a joyful celebration with family and friends and reflections from the graduates.

“This program changed the way we respond to people,” said Renard Page.

“As hard as you worked to get here, you have to continue to get to where you’re going and once you get there to stay,” said Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby during the graduation ceremony.

This group is the first of three groups that will participate in the pilot program in Los Angeles County’s Second District over the next two years.

“It’s important for this program to continue because it shows there’s hope,” said Raul Cuellar, the valedictorian of the first graduating class.