Op-Ed: Diversify your talent pool by creating fair chance employment opportunities

Op-eds are submitted by the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion(s) of LINK Media.

The Northern Kentucky Workforce Investment Board is hopeful its efforts to utilize technology to pair job seekers with employers will prove beneficial to both parties. File image | LINK nky

The following op-ed is written by LaKisha Miller, executive director of the Kentucky Workforce Center, and Mark Guilfoyle, incoming
chair of the Workforce Center’s board of managers.

As Kentucky focuses on economic competitiveness, businesses must diversify their hiring pools to include individuals from fair chance populations.

Employers may be familiar with terms like “fair chance” or “second chance employment.”

Fair chance employment ensures that individuals in recovery, impacted by substance use, or with justice involvement have the opportunity to re-enter the workforce. Recently, Kentucky’s unemployment rate dropped to its lowest rate in recorded history, according to new labor market data.

“Kentucky’s historically low unemployment rate is welcome news, and is another reminder that our economy has made a remarkable recovery from the pandemic,” said Kentucky Chamber Senior Policy Analyst Charles Aull. “With that being said, the number of open jobs and our low rate of workforce participation are major challenges that continue to hold our economy back and make it very difficult for businesses in Kentucky to meet consumer demands and grow. It is critical that we focus on bringing more Kentuckians into the labor market and removing barriers to work.”

This is why fair chance employment is critical in Kentucky.

The Kentucky Chamber Foundation’s Workforce Recovery Program supports businesses looking to become fair chance employers by providing valuable training, information, and resources to foster employment opportunities for individuals ready to re-enter the workforce.

An initiative recently-launched by the Foundation’s Workforce Recovery Program, the Kentucky Transformational Employment Program (KTEP), provides a pathway for businesses and employers to help more Kentuckians reach long-term recovery while supporting fair chance employment.

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KTEP prioritizes workplace safety and provides essential liability protection for employers. Under Kentucky law (KRS 222.215), businesses who participate are not liable for civil action alleging negligent hiring, negligent retention, or negligent acts because of an employee’s substance use disorder.

“The Kentucky Transformational Employment Program connects people with the treatment resources they need to be healthy. We see a real opportunity for this program to do some good. We encourage employers across Kentucky to make a positive impact in their communities,” said Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. “Stable employment is a critical component of long-term recovery and can provide Kentuckians with the purpose and motivation they might need to stay in remission and get their lives back.”

KTEP helps improve an employer’s ability to recruit, hire, and retain the workforce it needs to grow its business, and as of April 2022, more than 60 Kentucky businesses have signed up for KTEP, which impacts more than 12,000 Kentucky employees.

In May of 2022, the Kentucky Chamber Foundation launched the first-ever Fair Chance Academy to complement the Kentucky Transformational Employment Program. This cohort, comprised of 20 businesses representing nearly 30,000 employees across Kentucky, focuses on developing the knowledge, tools, and resources needed to hire, train, and retain talent from fair chance populations.

These businesses will be the first in Kentucky to receive recognition and certification from the Kentucky Chamber Foundation as fair chance employers.

After our first session together, Brighton Center Vice President Talia Frye shared that it was a “powerful day.”

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The Kentucky Chamber Foundation continues to develop business-led programs that help create the robust workforce our state needs to be competitive. The Workforce Recovery Program has been a catalyst for life-changing outcomes among people impacted by substance use, helping to reduce stigma in the workplace related to addiction, treatment, and recovery. Over the past two years, this program has recruited 32,000 fair chance jobs to help Kentuckians find stable and meaningful employment.

The Kentucky Chamber Foundation encourages every business in Kentucky to take steps to become a fair chance employer. Please visit Kentucky Talent Hub www.talenthubky.com to post fair chance job opportunities.

To learn more about the Kentucky Transformational Employment Program and to participate, visit kentuckycomeback.com/ktep.