PA Chamber Highlights Support for Reentry Legislation

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Building a strong workforce development system relies in large part on ensuring that more individuals can access the necessary resources to obtain a good paying job in in-demand fields – whether it be through education, skills training or information about the types of careers they can pursue.  This strategy includes helping to facilitate employment among those who have criminal records and/or were formerly incarcerated. 

The PA Chamber has championed these goals all session long through our support for reentry legislation.  In June, PA Chamber President Gene Barr joined Gov. Tom Wolf and a bipartisan mix of lawmakers and stakeholders at a press conference to celebrate the “Clean Slate” law going live – a first-of-its-kind law in the nation that offers a second chance to low-level offenders wanting to get back into the workforce.  On Tuesday, Dec. 3, PA Chamber President Gene Barr discussed workforce development issues as they relate to reentry programs, and the benefits of employers hiring reentrants, at an employer roundtable which was hosted by the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce and also included commentary from PA Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, Kelly Evans, the department’s Deputy Secretary for Reentry and Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak, among others.

In recent weeks, the state Senate unanimously approved PA Chamber-backed legislation that aims to reform Pennsylvania’s occupational licensing process to help applicants with a criminal record avoid rejection when applying for a state-issued occupational license.  And just this morning, the PA Chamber sent a memo to members of the House Judiciary Committee urging support for several bills that aim to facilitate employment among reentrants.  They include H.B. 1477, which mirrors the occupational licensing reform bill that just cleared the Senate; H.B. 1555, which encourages people on probation to pursue job training programs by reducing sentences once a program is successfully completed, and also limits situations whereby a violation can lead to parole revocation; and H.B. 2040, which would establish the “PA Second Chance Jobs” website where employers willing to hire ex-offenders can post job openings.  These bills are all scheduled to be considered today by the committee before heading to the House floor for further action.

“Pennsylvania is in the midst of a workforce crisis as many employers struggle to find qualified workers to fill open positions,” the memo stated.  “Helping facilitate employment among individuals with a criminal record or who were formerly incarcerated is an important part of a multi-pronged strategy to address these workforce challenges.”

The PA Chamber is among the most active stakeholders in the state toward building a 21st century workforce that is equipped to compete on a global scale.  In addition to our support for public policies that promote a future-focused workforce development strategy, our organization also has developed a robust internal initiative, “Start the Conversation Here,” that is focused on educating employers, students and their families, and schools on available Pennsylvania jobs that do not necessarily require a four-year college education.  For details on that program, visit www.StartTheConversationHere.com.