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Organizations help Hoosiers return to the workforce after incarceration

Posted at 10:25 PM, Dec 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-03 22:25:19-05

INDIANAPOLIS — As the labor shortage continues to impact businesses locally and across the country, an Indianapolis organization is working every day to prepare a specific group of our community for the workforce.

"When you have a job, it gives you hope, it gives you confidence," Christopher Harris said.

After spending 16 years behind bars, Harris knew he needed to find a stable job.

When he was released, he turned to the non-profit organization Keys2Work which connected him with a temporary job working in solid waste at the Indianapolis Department of Public Works.

"I came out, worked 90 days. They gave me an interview and I've been here for three years now. It's really been a good opportunity for me. It's allowed me to land back on my feet and have my own place, my own vehicle," Harris said.

Keys2Work helps people in Marion County who are returning home from incarceration, at risk youth and those experiencing homelessness with employment assistance, mentoring and job placement.

"People are people. We are not perfect. Everyone has their own mistakes, everyone has to be rebuilt from their mistakes," Glenn Johnson, Keys2Work Senior Executive Director of Business Development, said.

Keys2Work follows a model they call ABC. It stands for any job, better job and career. Their clients typically start working first at their sister organization RecycleForce.

"RecycleForce is a good space for that. They get industry recognized credentials. Once they get a decent handle on life itself, we transition them over into that better job," Johnson said.

That is where employer partners in Indianapolis like the Department of Public Works come in.

"What we do, it's not for everyone. We do have a high turnover rate. We also have other people who have been here for 40 years," Shawn Brock, DPW Solid Waste Services Deputy Director, said.

"We couldn't grow as an organization without them," Johnson said. "This is a space where a lot of folks coming home are comfortable being in. They are comfortable working with their hands, moving around, and being a part of the community."

Over the last eight years, according to Keys2Work, DPW has brought on hundreds of their clients and more than 40 have turned into permanent union positions.

"It's just a great feeling, just to be able to wake up, go to work, you have a purpose," Harris said.

Keys2Work is always looking for more employer partners in Indianapolis. They strive to find jobs for their clients near bus routes since transportation is often a challenge.

If you are a business looking to hire the population Keys2Work serves, you are encouraged to reach out.

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