Nov 242007


Formerly incarcerated often find re-entering the workforce difficult

By Francine Brevetti, STAFF WRITER

OAKLAND — The Port of Oakland is sponsoring an informational job fair next week for a group of citizens who are often overlooked on the employment market — former convicts.The Apprenticeship Expo, to be held 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wed-nesday at 530 Water St. in Jack London Square, aims to introduce former convicts to trade unions and job opportunities.

The previously incarcerated — frequently stymied in the job market by demands for background checks — can make it in the construction trades with the proper guidance and support, said one former felon.

The 28-year old woman, imprisoned for embezzlement, is today working on a construction site as an apprentice electrician thanks to one of the 18 training programs expected to attend the expo. The former banker, who asked that her name not be used, credited the Cyprus Mandela Training Program with preparing her for her current career and lifestyle.

“My lawyer suggested the construction industry because it’s often overlooked, but it has many opportunities and good wages,” she said. She went through the 16-week Cyprus Mandela apprentice program and applied for every opportunity the trade unions presented.

She said she’s found tolerance at her current job for former felons, provided they make some changes in their lives.

“As long as they are willing to put behind them a sense of entitlement for quick money, rolling out of bed at 12 noon, the marijuana, the drugs and sometimes certain relationships, they can do it,” she said, speaking as one who’s had to look at her own life in a new light.Victor Uno, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and a former training manager of the union’s apprenticeship program, is expected to speak at the expo.

“We had many people formerly incarcerated in our apprenticeship program, and we found opportunities for everybody,” Uno said. “If somebody made a mistake and did their time, we don’t hold that against them. Most employers in the construction trades don’t require background checks and we don’t do background checks for the apprenticeship program.”

Other trade union representatives will also attend the expo, which is offered in cooperation with the Community Reentry Service Providers Network

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