Businesses find giving ex-offenders a chance creates loyal employees

One of first things Brian Stirling did as the director of the S.C. Department of Corrections is watch how people are released from prison.

He noticed that they are dropped off at the bus station that was formerly at the corner of Gervais and Harden streets in Columbia. Many of the newly released offenders were enticed by drugs and prostitution before they could leave town.

“Some people didn’t have a chance,” he said during a panel discussion at the 2017 Workforce Development Symposium hosted by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) and the State Workforce Development Board (SWDB).

He first instituted a plan to where if an inmate has a family member pick them up, they could leave prison at the beginning of the month. Next he focused on getting them a job even before they leave prison.

“My goal is to have a job for them to have a job before they leave,” he said. Having a job reduces the recidivism rate by 10 percent, he said. The recidivism rate for ex-offenders without a job is around 24 percent but only 14 percent among ex-offenders who are working.

With approximately 900 people are released from South Carolina prisons every month, former Gov. Nikki Haley urged the Corrections and DEW to partner in helping returning citizens find employment.

The Second Chance program began as a pilot program at the Manning Correctional Facility in Columbia. Through this initiative, DEW provides a full-time employee, coaching and materials to assist returning citizens in work-skills training.

Ninety days prior to release, ex-offenders are taught employment and soft skills in class for one hour each day. During the last 30 days, participants work directly with a DEW counselor to become registered in the SC Works system, craft a resume and apply for jobs online once released.The skills they learn through the Second Chance Initiative help leverage the skills they’ve acquired through the work programs.

Participants in the Second Chance Initiative receive a folder at the time of release that includes a Federal Bonding letter, several copies of their resume, a letter of explanation that outlines their personal situation, information on the SC Works centers across the state and contact information for a case manager in their local SC Works center, and any other information or available resources relevant to that individual.

“We want to make it hard for people to fail,” Stirling said.

Cheryl Stanton, DEW’s executive director, said as the unemployment rate falls to near record lows, the agency and employers start focusing people with barriers to employment, such as ex-offenders.

To encourage businesses to take a chance, DEW can help employers access tax credits through the federally funded Work Opportunity Tax Credit program. Employers can also receive protection through the Federal Bonding program to insure them when hiring a high-risk applicant, Stanton said.

“People in prison are not lazy, they made wrong decisions,” Stirling said.

Ken Ellington, director of Engineered Wood at Shaw Industries Group Inc. which has a manufacturing plant inside the Tyger River Correctional Facility in Enoree, S.C., and several plants outside the prison system, said about 50 percent of its South Carolina workforce are ex-offenders.

“We have a ton of skilled people,” he said. “They will become life-long, loyal employees.”

For more information about the Second Chance program click here, or contact Grey Parks at bparks@dew.sc.gov.

 

Volvo to invest in locally grown workforce

Katarina Fjording, vice president of purchasing and manufacturing for Volvo Cars U.S. Operations, wants to develop the workforce for the company’s first U.S. manufacturing facility locally, she said during her keynote address at the 2017 Workforce Development Symposium on Feb. 8.

Volvo is building its plant in Berkeley County and has said it will need 2,000 employees. Fjording said 43,000 people have shown interest in working for the company. But of that number, approximately 1,500 people will qualify because of the company’s hiring procedure.

“It is our job to figure out how to make that lower number higher,” she said.

However, she does not want to bring in too many people from outside the state as other companies have done. When speaking with other original equipment manufacturers (OEM) they told her they hired between 60 to 70 percent of their workers from outside the state.

“These are the jobs that we need to fill with people right here,” she said.

Her plan is to take the money that would be used for relocation and invest it into education. Volvo is working with Trident Technical College to develop curriculum that will help people interested in working for the company to know what the qualifications are and to provide them with the education needed to compete for their jobs.

“We want as many as possible, as local as possible,” she said of her

Workers at Volvo's Torslanda, Sweden, plant assemble a Volvo XC90. (Photo courtesy of Volvo)

Workers at Volvo’s Torslanda, Sweden, plant assemble a Volvo XC90. (Photo courtesy of Volvo)

workforce.

“What we need are a log of technicians and first level maintenance engineers,” she said. “A lot of our jobs don’t need someone with a rocket science education.”

Also it is up to all involved in workforce development to educate the community that manufacturing is not the dirty, greasy job that many people imagine when they think about manufacturing, Fjording said.

“This is a very clean and safe environment, and there are loads of good jobs in the industry,” she said.

“We want good people who care to work for us. They are wanted.”

Hannah Adams beats all the odds

Hannah and StakeholdersWhen Hannah Adams’ watched her daughter, Khloe, blow out her birthday candles on her first birthday, she suddenly realized how quickly time was passing. Hannah knew that if she didn’t get serious about her goals, her daughter might have a difficult childhood like she did. It was time to make changes to give Khloe a chance at a better life, so she turned to Eckerd’s Palmetto Youth Connections program for help.

Growing up wasn’t easy for Hannah. Her mother was a drug addict so she stopped going to school in the 7th grade to stay home and help care for her two younger siblings. At 14 Hannah got pregnant and, what’s worse, lived in a prostitution house. Police raided the home, and Hannah was taken into DSS custody. She ended up at New Horizons, a home for pregnant and parenting teenage girls, in Summerton, South Carolina.

It was through New Horizons that Hannah first heard about Eckerd’s Palmetto Youth Connections Program (PYC) Designed to educate, train and support youth as they prepare to enter the workforce, PYC emphasizes hands-on development in academic and job-training services. When Hannah enrolled in the program in April 2015, her initial assessments showed an 8th grade reading level and 5th grade math level. She knew that getting her GED would be a long journey. But once she got started, her natural intelligence began to shine. After just one month she told her teachers she felt she was ready for the GED. When she got the results, Hannah cried; she had passed the test and earned her GED!

The next step on Hannah’s journey was to earn an occupational skills credential in the hope she would earn a job to support herself and her child. Through her older brother, who she considers a best friend and a mentor, Hannah was exposed to the welding trade. She was interested in learning welding, but the only school that offered the training was an hour from New Horizons. Because she didn’t have a car and the residential facility had limited options to assist with transportation, Eckerd PYC stepped in to help for 13 weeks, arranging transportation for the hour commute to welding school.

As the only female in the class, she had to set boundaries early on and establish that she wasn’t interested in distractions with her classmates. Through her dedication and hard work she learned the welding skills she needed to earn her certificate.

With her new skillset Hannah had the opportunity to continue to work with PYC to gain hands-on training through their work-based learning program. Caterpillar agreed to allow Hannah to complete her welding training at their company, but transportation continued to be a barrier. PYC was determined to help her keep her momentum of success so they contributed the last of their support services limit for a Hannah’s case to make sure she had transportation to and from Caterpillar

Despite the budget limitations, PYC found another opportunity. On her behalf, PYC applied for the Success Award through the Eckerd Foundation. The application was a breeze considering all that Hannah had accomplished for herself and Khole in just two years. The hope was for her to receive the financial award to buy her very own car.

With glowing recommendations, Hannah was selected, and PYC immediately started working with a local car dealership to surprise her. She was so excited, and now, with the car, Hannah has the necessary resources to continue her training and to make sure that hers and Khloe’s future is bright.

It’s Tax Season: How to File a 1099-G

DEW wants you to be prepared this tax season so we have gathered all the information, tips and documents to help you successfully submit your taxes with a 1099-G form.

What is the 1099-G you may ask? The most common use of the form is to report unemployment compensation as well as any state or local income tax refunds you received that year. It also shows the amount of refund, credit or interest issued to you in the calendar year filing from your individual income tax returns. If at any point during 2016 you received unemployment benefits, you will need to document this with the IRS when filing taxes with the 1099-G.

To access your 1099-G, you will need to login to your MyBenefits portal. On the homepage, select view your 1099-G. You will then need to choose what year you need and click View My 1099-G. You can then view and print your 1099-G.

The IRS has specific instructions regarding the form. You can view them here.

Below is what the 1099-G looks like. The instructions that the IRS provides shows you exactly what you need to fill out all of the fields.

1099-g

Receiving Service for a Life of Service

Sarah Weaver photoSenior Master Sergeant Sarah Weaver served 30 years in the United States Air Force and earned her Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership. In May 2014, after retiring from the Air Force, Sarah and her husband moved to Seneca, S.C.

Sarah obtained a part-time position with the United States Postal Service, but wanted to concentrate on her area of expertise, administration. Looking for veteran’s assistance, Sarah sought out her nearest SC Works center help her achieve her goal. SMSgt Weaver was referred to Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP) representative Susan Stockton, who quickly helped her in her search for employment. SMSgt Weaver joined the Senece SC Works team itself as a Resource Specialist through VA Vocational Rehabilitation Department Chapter 31 for two months while securing a full-time position at Clemson University as a Coordinator of Administrative Support Services in Counseling and Physiological Services.

SMSgt Weaver stated, “SCWorks greatly contributed to my success in obtaining employment with Clemson University.  It is one thing making it through the application tracking system, but the hardest part is preparing for the interview and following-up after the interview. Silissa (Si) Bischof, the Career Development Specialist at SCWorks, played a significant role in helping me land the job. She helped me research not only the University but the department in which I would be working.  She also gave me invaluable advice in writing my thank-you notes and follow-up e-mails. Si has coached me throughout the entire process, and I will always be deeply grateful for her astute guidance and kindness. It is because of Si and SCWorks that I was able to succeed in obtaining employment. Susan Stockton, my Vet Rep, was also extremely helpful. I often sought her out for her expert knowledge and counsel which were always very helpful to me throughout my time at SCWorks. Susan truly cares about veterans and it shows in everything she does. I will forever be thankful she was my Vet Rep.”

Russell Anderson finds employment opportunities

Russell Anderson was bullied throughout high school because of a physical disability, but he never allowed that to impact his confidence and desire to be a successful member of the workforce and community.

In an effort to find a job, he began working with the S.C. Vocational Rehabilitation Department. From there, his workforce consultant referred him to the North Charleston Education 2 Employment (E2E) grant. E2E provides access to high-quality job training and employment services for youth and adults in North Charleston. The program prepares participants for careers through short-term occupational skill-training and paid work experience in high-growth industries.

Because Russell loved to work with computers, he was offered an opportunity to begin CompTIA training, which ensures common understanding of hardware and software programs necessary to support complex IT infrastructures. He received an A+ certification in this training, offered at Productivity Solutions and Training and is now working on receiving his Network+ certification.

In addition to computers, Russell is also interested in a broadcasting career. E2E staff started working with a career coach at Palmetto Youth Connections who used to be a radio broadcaster to develop potential work experience. Russell hopes to utilize the computer skills he’s gained through his certifications and programs, and his love of music to create a dynamic career for himself.

To give back to a program that has been successful at helping him into the workforce, Russell has since become an E2E ambassador and recently participated in the S.C. Behavioral Health Conference.

DEW employee works hand-in-hand with economic developers

tiffany

Tiffany Jaspers says she is a translator.

As the business economic development manager for the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW), Jaspers reaches out to local officials to find out what skills and talents their workforce has and translates that information for economic developers in their efforts to attract businesses to their areas.

Jaspers certainly understands the roles economic developers play. Before joining DEW a few months ago, she worked in economic development for Lexington County.

The other part of her job is letting industry associations and chambers of commerce know what information and services the agency can provide.

“I spend all my time with economic developers and industry-related associations,” she said. “When I meet with them I simply ask ‘what is going on?’ It’s more of a listening session and then I can determine ways to help.”

And when she meets with someone she takes them something of value, such as our workforce data which extremely important for economic developers, she said.

While Jaspers doesn’t work directly with individual businesses, she recognizes that each business is different and programs and services must be tailored to their specific needs. But first she must get out to the businesses through the chambers and associations what services DEW can provide.

You can reach Jaspers at tjaspers@dew.sc.gov.

 

Can you contest your tax rate?

Can you contest your tax rate?

Having recently received your 2017 tax rate notice, you may have questions about how they are determined or disagree with the rate given to your business. So what do you do?

Unfortunately, South Carolina laws governing the tax rate assignment do not provide for an appeals process. However, if you disagree with the historical information contained in your notice of contribution rate you can submit a written request for a review within 30 days from the date on the notice. You must submit your request, along with any documentation of errors either by email at rateinfo@dew.sc.gov, fax 803-737-2862 or by mail at:

S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce
Experience Rate Section
P.O. Box 995
Columbia, SC 29202

The tax rates, according to state law, adjust automatically each year based on a formula that considers the following:

  • Projected benefit costs for the year (“base rate”)
  • Projected amount required to return the Trust Fund to an adequate balance by 2020 (“solvency surcharge”)

Tax rates are set each year to fund these components. Each employer is also responsible for a Departmental Administrative Contingency Assessment (DACA) surcharge of 0.06 percent which is added to the base rate and interest surcharge:

Total Tax Rate = Base Rate + Solvency Surcharge + DACA

If you have additional questions, you can contact the employer tax services line at 803-737-3080. To view the 2017 Tax Rate Chart click here.

Board aims to inform businesses of services, resources

One of the priorities of the State Workforce Development Board (SWDB) is to make sure businesses understand the workforce services and resources available throughout the state. In particular, the role of the SC Works centers as well as that of DEW have been known for unemployment benefits when individuals are out of work; however, there is a significant investment by these agencies to leverage skills training, soft skills, career pathways and more, all in an effort to support the needs of South Carolina industry.

In order to educate businesses and encourage them to take full advantage of the programs available, a business engagement group was created with the collaboration of the Local Workforce Development Boards. Last year, the group exceeded their goal of reaching 10,000 businesses. This year the group is focusing on continuing outreach while digging deeper with current relationships to elaborate on services specific to a company’s needs.

Some examples of programs created to connect individuals with quality employment as well as establish a talent pipeline where businesses can find a workforce with skills specific to their industry, include:

On the Job Training

Incumbent Worker Training

WorkKeys® Assessments

Apprenticeships

Rapid Response

Employee Search Assistance

Connecting businesses with other agencies based on an assessment of workforce needs

One program that is particularly helpful to businesses and that the board is funding this year is job profiling. Job profiles are available through the S.C. Work Ready Communities initiative. This customized measurement tool identifies skills and skill levels needed to perform a job in your company. The skill level is then matched with a WorkKeys® test score. By profiling your jobs, you can feel confident using WorkKeys® tests to make your selection, training and advancement decisions.

To meet with a member of the business engagement group and learn more about the resources available, visit our website at https://dew.sc.gov/about-dew/locations to call your local SC Works center and ask to speak with a business consultant.

 

 

Save the date for the Workforce Development Symposium

Mark your calendar to attend the 2017 Workforce Development Symposium on February 18-19 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

The event is hosted by the State Workforce Development Board, S.C. Chamber of Commerce and the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

Learn from other businesses about successful apprenticeships, hiring practices in a tight labor market and about other programs available through the Department of Employment and Workforce that will help fill key positions.

More information will be available soon.