Businesses across the United States are struggling to fill vacant positions — 11.3 million positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And it would appear there aren’t enough people to fill them. In February, the unemployment rate was 3.8%, or just over 6 million people.
Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Randy Zook believes there are solutions to the labor shortage – including having an open mind in the hiring process.
"It takes all of us working together to make a difference, to be the difference, in a healthy, strong workforce. One way we can do that is through second chance hiring opportunities for those in recovery looking for stable employment," Zook said. "Although it’s not suitable for every business, this often-untapped pool brings talent, enthusiasm, work ethic and loyalty to employers and the community."
Leaders with The Greenbrier Companies in Marmaduke agree, saying investing in employees in recovery often builds a stronger workforce.
"I think all of us have difficulties. And I think those that have learned from their past mistakes, those individuals end up becoming stronger employees in the long run," said Greenbrier Senior Vice President Bill Krueger. "It’s a win, win, win. We win as a company because we get a dedicated, hard worker. The employee wins because they get a chance to earn a living and feel good and have pride in their work. And I think the community also benefits for having an individual that’s contributing and is out there being a participant in society."
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, one in six people on the unemployment rolls in America battles addiction. TogetherArkansas is a coalition created to promote a drug-free workforce. In their recent video, A Story of Second Chances, Lloyd Turner said he knows all too well the challenges addiction can present when looking for work.
"When I got out of prison and I moved to this area, I didn’t know a soul. I had a hard time finding employment," Turner said. "When you check that ‘felony’ box, there are many industries that will turn their back on you. That have absolutely no interest in giving you a second chance."
Turner is a safety administrator at Greenbrier. He’d been drug-free a year when he applied at the company. Today, he’s 16 years sober, proof to his senior human resources manager, Malissa Lewis, that second chance employees are worth that second chance.
"The traits that I see with second chance employees is their work ethic. Just the thought of getting another opportunity to make things right, so to speak, they are appreciative of the fact they have a job and an opportunity to make something of themselves — not just to have a job but a career," Lewis said.
"I am a prime example of someone who was given an opportunity, who was given a second chance — it’s been everything to me," said Turner "This job has not only given me an opportunity to have a nice home; it’s given me a chance to make a difference to others. I still want to give this company 110% of what I do every day."