At PayPal, our need for highly skilled talent grows yearly. Currently, unemployment in the U.S. remains low, and yet, the number of job vacancies remains high, hovering around 10.1 million.
Instead of looking at this as a challenge, we’ve framed it as an opportunity to revisit our hiring practices and search for undiscovered talent in often-overlooked populations, such as individuals with criminal backgrounds. While many believe in the possibility of redemption after incarceration, convictions often become barriers to well-paying, full-time jobs, thereby contributing to the notoriously high cycle of recidivism in the U.S.
That’s why we’re excited to partner with Next Chapter, a program aiming to change perceptions of those returning from prison by helping formerly incarcerated individuals secure a real second chance through the building of rewarding and lasting careers as software engineers. Next Chapter was founded in 2018 by Slack in partnership with The Last Mile, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and FREEAMERICA.
Returning citizens must have at least one year of formal or self-directed coding training or education, make it through a meticulous application and interview process, pass a technical admissions assessment, and successfully complete a 12-week immersive bootcamp at Hack Reactor before beginning their five-month apprenticeship at hiring partners, like PayPal.
The candidate review process, the rigorous nature of the program, the complementary supportive services, as well as the determination and commitment of the apprentices all help Next Chapter deliver amazing outcomes. These include a historical 0% recidivism rate, 97% full-time employee conversion rate, and a 93% retention rate. Hiring returning citizens can be an effective solution for an enduring social challenge and while helping meet business goals.
For PayPal, our work with Next Chapter will connect an operational need with our company values and mission; more specifically, our commitment to inclusion. But just as importantly, we’re better able to fulfill our mission to democratize and improve financial health outcomes when returning citizens are gainfully employed, be it with PayPal or another employer.
According to a U.S. Department of Justice study, of the over 50,000 individuals released from a federal penitentiary in a 2010 study group, 33% had not found employment four years after their release. Sadly, this phenomenon is far too common.
Participants at one of Next Chapter's networking events
When employment with a living-wage job is unattainable for the formerly incarcerated, recidivism rates go up, with various studies showing that employment and poverty are some of the best predictors of recidivism. While a solution to breaking the cycle of recidivism seems clear – gainful employment for returning citizens – in practice it has been much harder to achieve.
A 2018 study found that hiring managers and human resource professionals are interested in hiring individuals with criminal convictions, but that only 5% of hiring managers and 3% of HR professionals surveyed said their company actively recruits people with criminal records. And there’s the problem. Without intentionality and some effort, most employers will continue to look at returning citizens as a business risk and not a business opportunity.
As a society, we have a lot of work ahead of us to destigmatize, promote, and encourage the hiring of individuals with a criminal background. Given the exceedingly tight labor market, there has never been a greater time or a better opportunity to begin addressing this deep-rooted societal problem. And for those businesses that are ready to start their journey, the Second Chance Business Coalition can help guide them along the path.
While we are just starting our partnership with Next Chapter, we hope to make it the cornerstone of a program centered around the hiring of individuals with a criminal background, as well as individuals from other similarly disadvantaged and often-overlooked populations. Our value of inclusion has guided us in this decision, but it’s the business case that will make it an enduring one.
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