Foot in the Door

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A Job Seeking/Re-entry Program for Ex-Offenders, with Laura Bittner. NEAFCS, Albuquerque, Sept 2011

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Foot in the Door

  1. 1. New Mexico State University Laura Bittner, Extension Agent lbittner@nmsu.eduM. Fahzy Abdul-Rahman, Family Resource Management Specialist fahzy@nmsu.edu
  2. 2.  With 1.8 million inmates, US have the highest percentage of prison population at 754 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents (Department of Justice, 2010). Life beyond bars is filled with uncertainties. Although expected to live a normal life like any other citizen, ex-inmates have huge challenges in finding and maintaining a job. Without proper job preparation training, released inmates may have to resort to the easy-money crimes that brought them to the prison in the first place. Developed by an extension county agent with 15 years experience of teaching job preparation at college level, this is a job preparation educational program designed for inmates who are about to be released. Comprised of four two-hour sessions, the program helps to promote individual’s self-esteem, set goals, market oneself for the job market, prepare for job interviews, and maintain one’s job. The program is divided into five sections: goal setting, applications, resumes, interview, and keeping the job. The unique aspects of this program are its discussion approach (no lecture), small size for personal attention, mock interviews, possible free interview outfits, and grooming tips. Immediately after the program, participants who completed it were surveyed about the usefulness of the class, the instructor, and its contents, and recommending the class to others using a five-point Likert-scale. About six months after completing the program, the program instructor telephoned participants to ask about their updates. Based on the class evaluation, 96% of 166 participants found the material to be “very useful” and 92% felt they had learned things that would help them with their job search. Within six months of completing the program, 85% of the contacted participants reported that they were more aware of how to successfully complete a job application, over 40% have actively searched for employment using the program’s materials, and 20% have obtained employment.
  3. 3.  Accurately addresses one of the NEAFCS Program Tracks and/or addresses an emerging issue, relevant problem, or community need Outcomes or objectives clearly defined (new skills, knowledge, or abilities that participants will learn from session) Program evaluation clearly documented (methods, tools, indicators, outcomes, impacts, etc.) Documents that the program is research-based. To be considered research-based, proposal must include one of the following forms of documentation: ◦ Based on published research, approaches, and/or practices – Cite reference(s), ◦ Research (pilot or prior tested) - Describe the methodology, ◦ Curriculum - Document it has been reviewed (for science based content, accuracy, and effectiveness) and approved by whom?, ◦ Creative/demonstration - Provide the scientific basis for the content and/or approach. (Is it based on a prior demonstration(s) and by whom?), ◦ Evaluation - State what evaluation tool was used, if the tool has been validated, and by whom. If it is a pilot of a new tool, then how does it compare to similar tools being used? Clearly communicates content and intent of proposal and is well written and organized logically
  4. 4.  Note to LB: chose 1 or all
  5. 5. Program Objectives Identify values, interests and employable skills of participants Increase awareness of agencies/programs that assist in acquiring employment Enhance knowledge regarding successful completion of applications and development of cover letters, references and resumes Develop self-presentation skills Improve employability and ultimately reduce recidivism of ex-offenders Bridge gap (stereotypes) and develop relationships between ex-offenders and public
  6. 6. Program Components Series of 5 job seeking skills classes Development of professional resume and reference page Professional clothing, accessories and cosmetics for women Certificate of completion from NMSU Cooperative Extension Service Continued contact, resources, education and support through NMSU Extension Service
  7. 7. Description of Participants Began with 3 ex-offenders; as of today, 217 have completed program Men (76) and women (141) court-ordered to participate in a 6 month live- in drug/alcohol rehabilitation program 19-62 years old, mostly limited income Limited education (8th grade to some college) “Issues” related to past employment Self-reported crimes stem from drug/alcohol abuse Incarceration periods range from 0 to 24 years 97% convicted felons
  8. 8. Session 1: Understanding Values, Interests, Skills & Goal SettingKey Topics: Obstacles (personal, financial, felony record, appearance, experience, education, etc.) Personal values Activity (establishing relationship with group) Work values Identifying employable skills Interest Survey Goal setting Agencies/programs (Dept. of Labor) On-line job search Dare to dream. LEAP! And the net will appear. --Zen Saying
  9. 9. Session 2: Completing Applications & Determining ReferencesKey Topics: Employers with no or limited policy regarding hiring felons Power words! Organizing application facts Guidelines for successful application completion Handling gaps in employment/education concerns Developing a Summary Statement References
  10. 10. Session 3: Cover Letters & ResumesKey Topics: Employers with no or limited policy regarding hiring felons Power words! Organizing application facts Guidelines for successful application completion Handling gaps in employment/education concerns Developing a Summary Statement References
  11. 11. Session 4: The Interview!Key Topics: Making a great first impression (verbal/non-verbal) What to do about a tattoo… Introductions/Handshake The 30 second “Intro-mercial” ACTIVITY The 10 most common interview questions (and the psychology behind how to answer) MOCK INTERVIEW! The importance of a thank you note Following up
  12. 12. Session 5: Keeping Your JobKey Topics: Interpersonal Skills Competence Dependability Time Management Compatibility APPRECIATION! (A job is a privilege…not a right)
  13. 13. New Mexico State University Laura Bittner, Extension Agent lbittner@nmsu.eduM. Fahzy Abdul-Rahman, Family Resource Management Specialist fahzy@nmsu.edu

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