Building a Pathway to Employment

Having a criminal history often prevents people from finding a job — but it shouldn’t always.

The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) provides employment services to men and women with recent criminal convictions. This means teaching life skills, job training and providing services to get people into the workforce and help keep them there.

“A key factor in the success of the program is that it’s tailored to work with men and women who have been assessed with a higher risk,” said Will Heaton, director of policy and public affairs.

“We are trying to serve men and women in the toughest cases.”

CEO works closely with people through every step of the program, making sure they are ready and able to begin the process of gaining long-term employment. This includes working through legal, childcare or housing issues.

The program begins with Pathway to Employment, a week-long, unpaid life skills training session. It helps prepare men and women for the workforce while also building confidence.

On the fifth day, graduates receive a pair of work boots and are hired by CEO to work on transitional work sites the following Monday.

“I have three diverse crew leaders,” said Douglas Green, CEO’s Hamilton County director. “You get to pick between litter pickup or working at a state park.”

Each week, participants are required to call and schedule their work for the following week. With 18 jobs available, those interested must call early.

When participants are ready for employment, CEO works to find a fit between program participants and employers.

Support from CEO staff continues for one year after securing long-term employment. This includes counseling, crisis management and long-term career planning assistance. Rewards up to $1,000 are given throughout the year when employment is maintained.

“We give [participants] a community of people to support them and hold them accountable because we see their potential,” Green said. “We won’t stop pushing until they realize their own potential.”

Admittance into CEO’s program requires a referral from a parole or probation officer. Information sessions are held every Monday starting at 10 a.m. and every Wednesday starting at 6 p.m. at 800 Bank Street, Cincinnati, OH 45214.