Workforce development and legislative updates

At Hope 2 Hire, we feel it’s important to keep the people we serve and our supporters in the loop about changes that could impact them. In this blog post, we’ll provide an overview of recent legislative news in the state of Tennessee and provide a recap of a discussion with Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development commissioner Jeff McCord.

New legislation passed in Tennessee

On July 1, 2021, the state of Tennessee passed two bills that we plan to keep in mind as we progress as an organization. These two bills, the Criminal Justice/Reentry Success Act and Expunction for Employment, have the potential to help our students considerably in the future. Below, we discuss the highlights of the new laws. If you’re interested in reading the law in its entirety, please click here.

Criminal Justice/Reentry Success Act – This new law is a multi-faceted approach to help improve public safety while generating positive outcomes for previously incarcerated individuals. Eligible persons include the following:

  • Those serving a nonviolent felony offense or a sentence for a Class E or Class D felony offense
  • Must have no disciplinary record
  • Must be designated as “low risk” for community supervision
  • Must have completed or be enrolled in recommended programming to help ensure successful reentry

Here are a few highlights of the Criminal Justice/Reentry Success Act:

  1. All individuals exiting state custody must complete a minimum of one year supervised reentry integration.
  2. Restricted drivers license fees are waived, which are often barriers to successful reentry.
  3. The Parole Board’s ability to deny parole to someone who has been unable to enter educational classes or vocational training due to long waiting lists is removed.
  4. The Department of Correction is required to pay an accreditation stipend to encourage the implementation of evidence-based reentry programs in applicable counties.
  5. Community colleges and Tennessee College of Applied Technology are authorized and encouraged to partner with local governments to provide workforce development programs.
  6. Businesses that hire someone convicted of a nonviolent crime are granted limited employer liability.
  7. Grants will be provided to jails that design and implement strategies to improve chances of success reentry through the Evidence-Based Jail Programming project.

Expunction for Employment – This law allows individuals to have their record expunged in very specific cases. This offers a second chance to previously incarcerated individuals so they can find housing, employment and provide for their families. Additionally, a new law allows for simple assaults committed after July 1, 2000 to be eligible for expungement consideration.

Labor and Workforce Development commissioner visits Memphis

On Tuesday, July 27, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development commissioner Jeff McCord met with Memphians at our Summer Avenue headquarters. Hosted by Workforce Mid-South and the Greater Memphis Local Workforce Development, McCord sought to receive a firsthand account from employers about employment issues they are facing and successes they are seeing in Shelby County.

Even though concerns were voiced about the current state of the Memphis workforce, several attendees provided suggestions for improvement and signs of a light at the end of the tunnel. One participant cited research showing a need for students to be exposed to career opportunities in middle school as opposed to later in their education. Another suggestion was to focus on Tennessee’s growing apprenticeship program and to connect employees with employers online. 

While it seems that a lot of companies are hiring right now, it’s encouraging to know that many agencies and organizations are working daily to provide jobs and create pipelines to access a mostly untapped section of the workforce. At Hope 2 Hire, we know that more resources and opportunities in reentry programs are critical to the success of not only currently incarcerated individuals, but also the greater economy. Right now in Tennessee, there are more people without a high school diploma than there are currently enrolled high school students. When we can build up programs and break down barriers – that is when we see success. 

As we move forward as an organization, we’ll continue to keep an eye out for applicable news, updates and legislative changes that apply to our students, faculty and supporters. We’re thankful to have you alongside us. 

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