Fair Chance Employment makes sense

Published 10:59 am Wednesday, October 18, 2023

By Kathy Miles

Boyle County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is making a tremendous commitment to changing the low workforce participation rate in Kentucky.  That participation rate was listed in August of this year, as 57.6% (seasonally adjusted).  Although not the worst in the U.S., Kentucky compares badly.  We can do better, and we must, if we are to continue to move forward with economic development, attracting good jobs and overall quality of life for our citizens.

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In the Kentucky Chamber’s Workforce Summit in February, the keynote speaker, Jeffrey Korzenik, chief economist at Fifth-Third Bank, said this of America’s workforce situation: “We are experiencing a labor gap of 5 million workers.  We have never seen anything like this before.  That requires us in the business community to do things differently.”   

Some of those outlined new strategies included embracing “Fair Chance Employment” for those who have substance-use disorders, and often accompanying criminal justice involvement histories.

Fair Chance Employment fits perfectly into our community’s continuing commitment to be a “Recovery Ready Community”.  We know that recovery from having a substance use disorder must include gainful and meaningful work.  That’s why many area treatment programs have added employment-training components to their treatment programs.  It’s why participation in Kentucky Drug Courts includes a requirement to be employed.  Meaningful employment not only brings a paycheck -although that is clearly a must as someone moves away from a life dominated by active addiction. It also results in much improved family relationships, healthy friendships, and a not to be minimized sense of accomplishment for an honest day’s work.

Fair Chance Employment is also consistent with the economic development work being done locally.  The Danville Boyle County Development Corporation is working to bring new employers to our area who become contributing community partners and bring with them good jobs with good benefits, as well as supporting and sustaining our current employers.  This can’t be done without attention to the need for a larger, and well-trained regional workforce.  It’s why the Development Corporation now has a full-time Workforce Development professional and it’s why the Workforce Development Committee is so active in its work.

On Nov. 3, at Boyle County UK Extension Office, a local conference, “Fair Chance Employment:  Maximizing Benefits, Overcoming Barriers”, is planned for area human resource directors, employers, plant managers and frontline supervisors.  Sponsored by Danville Boyle County Development Corporation Workforce Development, Boyle County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy and Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce, attendees will learn about strategies and resources that are working to increase our workforce.  They will learn that the work may be complicated, but the commitment is worth it, for employers and employees recovering from substance use disorders and coming out of jails.  The conference is free, and includes a wealth of information, a free lunch, free Narcan, and yes, a lot of hope that we can answer the call to “do things differently”.  To register, contact Harold Nally at harold@developdanville.com.

Kathy L. Miles is coordinator Boyle County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy.