On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to create Countywide Career Pathways Plan, a strategy for bringing people who face the largest barriers to obtaining stable employment into LA County’s workforce. The plan will focus on recruiting, hiring, and training “clients of the county”—people who are involved in the criminal justice system, receiving homeless services or other county safety net services, transitioning out of foster care and/or the juvenile justice system, or are single mothers participating in the CalWORKs public assistance program or GAIN, the employment program for CalWORKs recipients.
“While County programs provide critical services and basic financial support, they are not, by themselves, sufficient to lift individuals and families out of poverty and homelessness,” Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis’s motion states. “It would be far better for County services and programs to include and be coupled with a strategy to ensure that our most vulnerable residents have meaningful opportunities for quality employment.”
Just under 75 percent of formerly incarcerated people are still unemployed one year after their release, according to a 2017 ACLU report on the benefits of hiring people exiting lockup. One in three American adults has a criminal record. And while employment has been proven to greatly reduce recidivism, and hiring people with criminal histories improves businesses’ retention rates, stigma often shuts the door to employment before formerly incarcerated job seekers have a chance to prove their worth.
“By expanding the hiring pool to include people with criminal histories, companies can improve their bottom line, reduce recidivism and incarceration costs, avoid discriminatory practices, and increase public safety,” the report says.
Employment is “the great equalizer,” Supervisor Janice Hahn said in support of Tuesday’s motion. “Father Greg Boyle loves to famously say that nothing stops a bullet better than a job.”
Young adults who have transitioned out of foster care similarly face alarming rates of homelessness and unemployment.
“LA County is the largest employer in the region — providing good quality, family-supporting wage jobs that offer a ladder to the middle class,” Supervisor Kuehl said. “This Board has worked to increase economic opportunity and advance employment equity for all residents of Los Angeles County. By implementing the Countywide Career Pathways Program, we’ll provide even more realistic opportunities for life-changing careers — empowering and uplifting some of our most vulnerable residents.”
The motion directs LA County CEO Sachi Hamai to partner with the Department of Human Resources and other relevant county departments to determine the best ways to develop goals to recruit, hire, and train members of the targeted groups. The CEO and DHR are also tasked with identifying the county’s entry-level positions that can build into careers.
Then, the CEO will come back to the board within 120 days with a report on these tasks, in addition to a list of recommendations for how the county can implement the Career Pathways Plan in a way that will “deliver quantifiable gains in the hiring of individuals with barriers to employment.”
The county has already made some progress toward lifting vulnerable populations out of poverty and into county jobs over the past few years.
Just last week, the supes approved a new policy that will require contractors and subcontractors that work with the county to certify that they comply with fair chance hiring standards, in an effort to remove barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated individuals.
Tuesday’s motion turns these smaller steps into a larger coordinated effort.
“This is what it means to think outside of the box and do things that bring value,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “I’m really, really stoked by this motion, and am glad to support it.”