Sign for Job Alerts!

Friday, October 29, 2021

Why millions of Americans are quitting their jobs

Originally published at by Alexa Liacko

The pandemic has led many Americans to quit their jobs. From having more flexible schedules to remote work opportunities and better work-life balance, many employees have taken this time of uncertainty to leave a job they weren’t passionate about. 

Roxanne Pagibigan was one of those workers. She immigrated to the United States from the Philippines for a better life for her family. She was working at a superstore preparing food when the pandemic hit.

“We were making the ready-to-eat foods like the mac and cheese, the salads,” said Pagibigan. “When pandemic hit, I got scared, so I resigned.” She then took a job packing boxes in a warehouse, hoping to be safer, but there, she found a different challenge. “Every day, it's very tiring working in the warehouse,” said Pagibigan. “Because of that, I felt like I wanted something more fulfilling, especially now that my kid is growing up. I want to be able to provide more for him.”

She knew a better paying job meant going back to school, so she saved up and started taking coding classes after work with Coding Dojo. “I was immediately interested with what they're offering,” said Pagibigan. “I’ll get more money and I won't be working at the warehouse.” The courses take a few months to complete. Students can take the courses part-time or full-time. The classes are not free, but Coding Dojo tries to work with every student on payment plans to make these classes accessible to as many people as want to take them. 

“What we are here for is to let people who want to change their careers wants to make the investment dedication over the course of three to six months to completely transition from whatever job they have today into a tech jobs that has a higher why the has a higher career mobility,” said Richard Wang, the CEO and co-founder of Coding Dojo. He said coding boot camps have become extremely popular during the pandemic because more workers are interested in careers with upward mobility than ever before. “Our mission is to transform lives through digital literacy, and we'll continue to specialize in taking people with no tech background and train them in the domains of web development, cyber security, data science, UI UX in all of these new economy tech domains to get them high-quality jobs in a current job market,” said Wang.

Once Pagibigan finished the coding boot camp, she did what millions of Americans have done this year: she quit. “I had so many doubts in myself,” said Pagibigan. “But, when a recruiter reached out to me, I was like, ‘Wow.’” She quickly got a job as a software engineer. Now, she is challenging her brain, not her body. “I'm advancing in my career, but I'm kind of scared of what the future holds for me. But I'm hopeful, and I know that I can do it,” she said. Pagibigan quit for personal safety and better job security, and she isn’t alone. 

In just the month of August, 4.3 million Americans—2.9% of the entire workforce— quit their jobs. That’s the highest number in one month ever recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Melanie Feldman founded the job coaching platform Going Places. She said the pandemic created a list of reasons for this wave of resignations. “We saw a lot of people moving out of the location that they were previously in, and then a lot of companies now have mandated coming back,” said Feldman. “I've seen a lot of people quit from that because people just don't want to come back to cities.” She also noticed mental health is playing a bigger part in choosing a job than ever before. “With the pandemic, it's brought a lot of stress,” said Feldman. “A lot of people are able to just prioritize themselves and said, ‘I need to quit and then I need to find something that's right for me.’” 

Ulrike Malmendier is a professor of Finance at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. She’s done research on how changes in the economy can shift our thinking. “In the context of the pandemic, I would expect that the experience of job stability and the way jobs are done during those times will alter our attitudes towards work in these areas in the long term,” she said. She said things like inflation, stock market downturn and other economic shocks force people to reassess their priorities personally. She said in this moment, there is a lot of power in the worker’s hands, but that power may not last. “The staff is not coming back and willing to work the exact same way they did before. I do think there's a power shift. How long this will last? Well, we do have to be careful, right? At some point, savings will be exhausted. There won't be additional checks sent by the government as it was early in the pandemic. So, it might be that employers regain their power and can just go forge ahead and reestablish the situation they had before," Malmendier said. "However this plays out, I think it will be really useful to firms and to employers to just realize they are dealing with a different set of people.” 

 For Pagibigan, this time of uncertainty brought her the courage to change not only her life but her family’s. “It's the American dream. My mom is really old and my brother is blind, so, this is a dream come true for me because it enables me to earn more so that I could help my family,” she said. Pagibigan is also hoping her son sees the lessons she’s learned about work during the pandemic and is never afraid to start a new chapter. “I'm striving hard. I'm working hard for him. I just feel very lucky, and I feel thankful that I have this job right now.”

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Once shunned, people convicted of felonies find more employers open to hiring them

Jonathan Contreras, a former felon, adds coloring to ground up rubber at U.S. Rubber Recycling in Colton.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Originally Published in The Los Angeles Times Don LEESTAFF WRITER 

Employers Are Hiring People Convicted of Felonies Amid Shortage

In the 25 years that U.S. Rubber Recycling in Colton, Calif., has been grinding up old tires to create new products, its sales have never ballooned so fast as during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As countless fitness centers closed, and millions of people began exercising at home, online demand for the company’s rubber mats and personal gym flooring soared.

But the company had a problem: finding enough workers to fill all the new orders.

That’s where U.S. Rubber's long practice of hiring former felons paid off as people like Thomas Urioste came into the picture. In March, the 50-year-old Wrightwood man was released from federal prison after serving nearly 10 years. He was living in a halfway house and, like many former prisoners, finding it hard to get a new start.

U.S. Rubber Recycling Chief Executive Jeff Baldassari, center, with Thomas Urioste, left, and Carlos Arceo, both ex-felons he hired.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

So when he heard that U.S. Rubber was hiring, he hurried to apply. And instead of being rejected as those with criminal records often are, he got hired practically on the spot.

Six months later, with his salary bumped up to $17 an hour, Urioste can hardly believe how far he's come. "They took a chance on me, gave me some responsibilities pretty fast. They let me run this [$200,000] machine," he said last week. “It feels pretty good because they trusted me.”

All across the country, as the economy surges and employers struggle to find enough workers, former prisoners like Urioste are finding a sliver of a silver lining in the dark cloud of the pandemic.

This summer, U.S. employers reported an unprecedented 10.9 million job openings. That was equal to more than one job for every unemployed person in the country.

Carlos Arceo is second-shift manager at U.S. Rubber Recycling.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

In response, a growing number of companies are beginning to tap into a huge, largely ignored labor pool: the roughly 20 million Americans, mostly men and many unemployed, who have felony convictions.

A tiny fraction of businesses, including U.S. Rubber Recycling, have long made a point of hiring ex-convicts. And in recent years, California and about a dozen other states have sought to remove some of the discrimination against these job candidates by banning employers from directly asking applicants about criminal records.

But the laws have proved fairly easy to get around. Employers now frequently make background checks for criminal records and probe gaps in applicants’ work histories. Once past problems come to light, the door slams shut.

"Of all people who face challenges in the labor market, those with records are at the end of the queue," said Shawn Bushway, an economist based in Albany, N.Y., and criminologist at Rand Corp.

Alisha Kerichenko prepares to cut rubber tiles at U.S. Rubber Recycling. Kerichenko is another former felon hired by the company.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Things tend to get a little easier during times of very low unemployment. What’s different this time is that the nation’s jobless rate is not close to rock bottom; it was 5.2% in August. (The jobs report for September will be released Friday.)

And yet today’s unusually severe labor shortages, reflecting both short- and long-term forces, seem to be opening up opportunities for ex-offenders. Some analysts think that may prove more lasting than in the past.

“Are we in a world where employers really have to start doing something differently?” Harry Holzer, a public policy professor at Georgetown University, asked, noting that businesses already were grappling with declining labor force growth, including the aging of Baby Boomers.

“Maybe, maybe there’s a potential for some win-win — good for these guys and their families and good for employers and the economy.”

Researchers have found that with each successive year that formerly incarcerated persons remain free without committing another crime, the likelihood of their returning to criminal activity declines. And after five to 10 years, that person has no higher probability of committing an offense than someone with no record. Holzer thinks employers are often overly fearful.

More companies are coming to the conclusion that they cannot afford such fears.

Harley Blakeman, chief executive at Honest Jobs, an Ohio-based company that matches employers with people with criminal records, said that in the last few months, seven Fortune 500 companies have signed on as partners, including manufacturer Owens Corning, packaging giant Ball Corp. and the distribution firm Arrow Electronics.

Alisha Kerichenko works at U.S. Rubber Recycling, where about half of the company’s 65 employees are ex-felons.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Blakeman said a key challenge is revamping how background checks can disqualify those with convictions without regard to the job.

At Honest Jobs, Blakeman said he hired seven people this year, most of them with criminal records, including a woman who applied for an executive assistant position that required handling finances. But her past included two fraud charges, he said, so she was instead offered a job working with employment applicants.

“I told her I cannot give you this job in particular because it’s too risky. That’s good business sense. But what happens is, the person with the fraud charge applies for a warehouse job and gets weeded out. That doesn’t make sense,” Blakeman said.

He founded Honest Jobs in late 2018 after his own struggles finding work while he was on parole after serving 14 months in state prison in Georgia.

While economics are prompting more companies, particularly large ones, to look at workers with convictions, there are countervailing forces holding back such hiring.

Many ex-felons, like others on the margins of the labor force, have little education and few skills. And after years in which violent crimes dropped, 2020 saw an increase in violence, led by murders and assaults.

“With [violent] crime rates rising, I think there will be some places where it will be more challenging salesmanship to try to reintegrate ex-offenders. The picture becomes a little bit more untidy,” said Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economy scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of “Men without Work.”

Already, people on parole or probation after incarceration, who number more than 4 million, face all kinds of employment and occupation restrictions. Those with felony records are barred from getting licenses for some medical occupations and barbering and beautician services, for example, and convictions may curtail driver's licenses for trucking and delivery work.

Melvin Price Jr., 41, of Long Beach, was paroled last September after serving 16 years in federal prison. As part of his release, he said he couldn’t work or "congregate" within 300 feet of a dispensary due to a prior criminal offense. And he has a 10 p.m. curfew, which meant he couldn’t apply for late-night or graveyard jobs at warehouses and other places that were hiring.

In November, Price found work at Chrysalis, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that helps the homeless and entrenched unemployed. And last week, through Chrysalis, Price landed a job doing landscape work for Caltrans. He’ll make about $3,000 a month.

“I promised that if I ever got another chance, I’d make the most of it,” said Price, whose life as a youth spiraled downward after his mother was murdered in 1992.

While Chrysalis has seen a near-tripling of inquiries from employers this year, there’s no sugarcoating the challenges.

At U.S. Rubber Recycling, where about half of the company’s 65 employees are ex-felons, Chief Executive Jeff Baldassari says the turnover rate for those with convictions is about 25% higher than others without such criminal records.

“They stack up very well when it comes to skills,” he said. “Where the gap lies is the attrition rate. The challenge they have with emotional stability in their lives is critical.

“Many don’t have life-skill lessons — how you deal with relationships. You can’t control their family life and who they hang out with,” he said.

Baldassari, for his part, tries to use the eight hours these employees work for him to provide a lot of training, teamwork building and avoiding what he called a “fishbowl syndrome,” in which certain workers feel they’re being watched and judged because of their records.

The company works closely with staff at halfway houses, and he has hired a psychiatric rehabilitation counselor.

Thermal-Vac Technology Inc. in Orange, which also routinely brings on people with past criminal offenses and addiction problems, holds weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings inside the company and invites parole officers to visit.

"You can hedge your bets, reduce some of the risks," said Heather Falcone, Thermal-Vac's chief executive.

Baldassari says his hiring practice have been good for his business, especially now when the competition for labor is stiff, and he says the stories of the workers speak volume about what productive work can mean for turning their lives around.

Carlos Arceo, 39, was hired a little more than two years ago after 10 years in prison in Arizona. Since then, he’s been promoted four times. When the pandemic-induced boom arrived, Arceo became supervisor of a new second shift.

He says he still meets with the company counselor every week or two, but nowadays it’s less about himself than about managing the people under him.

“A lot of the hires are fresh out of prison, just like I was,” he said, adding with a laugh that at the company, it's not just used tires that are recovered and find new use. "We're giving people a second chance too."

15 companies that will let you work from home and are hiring now—some roles pay over $100K

Poike | Istock | Getty Images Originally Published CNBC   Published Tue, Nov 8 2022 -  Morgan Smith @THEWORDSMITHM Companies are scaling bac...