It's hard enough to find a job in this economy, and for those with prison records it's worse. To make the search easier, two social service agencies sponsored a job fair that featured companies willing to give ex-offenders a second chance.
The job fair, which was hosted by SER-Jobs for Progress and the Houston Food Bank, drew about 35 companies and plenty of job seekers on Tuesday afternoon.
Ronald Shackleford heard about the job fair from a support group for ex-offenders that he attends. He left prison about six weeks ago after serving a three-year sentence for possession of a controlled substance.
He's looking for a truck driving position -- preferably one that will let him sleep at home each night.
"No luck yet," said Shackleford, who is hoping the job fair results in an interview or two.
Many employers who hire for jobs he's seeking won't consider applicants who were convicted within the past three years. One nonprofit said it would consider him, Shackleford said, and he's got his fingers crossed.
Karlton Harris, the re-entry service coordinator for the Harris County Sheriff's Office, said he hopes the job fair will show ex-offenders there are employers who are willing to give them another opportunity.
Harris said finding a job is one of the biggest challenges facing ex- offenders when they get out of prison.
Depends on offense
Memco, a staffing agency that supplies welders, sheet metal workers, pipe fitters, laborers and electricians for construction jobs, will consider ex-offenders depending on the offense, said Jose Palacios, Memco's workforce development representative.
The agency doesn't hire anyone with a record of violence or sexual assault, he said.
But other crimes? About half the time ex-offenders do fine at the physically demanding outdoor jobs, Palacios said.
"If they have the passion to work, we can keep them working," Palacios said.
Southwest Shipyard has 20 to 30 openings for structural welders, pipe fitters and other skilled workers, according to Elma Davila, human resources manager.
The company will consider candidates with prison records on a case-by-case basis, she said, but the conviction must have been at least seven years ago.
The company, which does new construction and repair, has hired quite a few ex-offenders who started at entry level and moved up.
Past seven years
Most clients of Diversified Sourcing Solutions request workers with no felony convictions within the past seven years, said Mayra Zapata, regional manager.
Some of the clients looking for industrial and clerical staff are stricter -- they do not want applicants with a single conviction. Others will take an employee with a misdemeanor, she said, "as long as it's not 10 pages of misdemeanors."
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