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How Workforce Development Boards can Help Lead the Fair Chance Movement

By Jesse McCree, CEO at SCPa Works and Matt Joyce, Partner at Envoy 

As Second Chance month comes to a close, it’s time to begin planning how we will transition from awareness and celebration of inclusive employment to actions and forward progress in the year ahead. This April has been heartening, with stories of employers that have made Fair Chance employment (FCE) a pillar of their talent strategy, and jobseekers overcoming past convictions to find employment, mobility, and success. We hope and expect these stories will help catalyze fundamental changes in policy and practice that expand opportunity for millions of talented, qualified workers.  

The two of us have collaborated for nearly a decade on workforce programming and employer engagement, and in that time we have come to understand the unique role that Workforce Development Boards (WDBs) can play in the Fair Chance movement. 

In 2015, when unemployment was nearly 40% higher than today, SCPa Works became an early adopter of Fair Chance investing from within the workforce system. As a local WDB, it invested WIOA Innovation Funds in reentry and transitional work opportunities for people with past convictions, helping support efforts like the launch of Center for Employment Opportunities in Harrisburg.

Ten years later, it is clear that FCE can no longer sit on the margins of workforce investment. After years of being sidelined from the labor force, people impacted by the justice system now make up a significant portion of the nation’s available talent pool – and our commitment to expanding opportunity should reflect this reality.  

Modern investment by Workforce Development Boards means using all the tools at our disposal to advance Fair Chance employment with companies in our regions. As part of its commitment to invest in workforce initiatives that support economic mobility, SCPa Works has seen FCE programs as critical interventions to address workforce shortages, reduce recidivism, and promote equitable workforce solutions. With a shortage of labor supply as a significant constraint on the region’s businesses, and a growing number of job seekers having involvement with the criminal justice system, SCPa Works has made a long-term commitment to investing in Fair Chance initiatives as a key way to strengthen the local community.  In 2023, SCPa Works partnered with Envoy to train PA CareerLink(R) (One Stop) staff to educate employers about Fair Chance practices. Today every SCPa Works business account manager has the tools to help employers review their HR policies and practices, build partnerships with reentry organizations, and better support candidates returning from the justice system.  

This year, SCPa Works is going a step further. Through its Construction Industry Partnership, it has invited a targeted group of employers to gain comprehensive implementation support from the Envoy team, helping make FCE a key part of their talent strategy. Each employer will leave Envoy’s Implementation Series with a roadmap and set of local partnerships to begin purposefully recruiting, hiring, and supporting candidates with past convictions. Further, we hope these companies will become leaders and champions for Fair Chance talent strategies and help motivate and guide their peers.   

It will take a broad range of actors to make FCE a standard practice, including employers, business associations, advocates, and community-based organizations. But WDBs have a key role to play. They serve as conveners and trusted partners to the business community and hold key insights into jobseeker interests, barriers, and trends. They can target funding strategies and allocate staff resources toward FCE, and simultaneously leverage long-standing relationships with employers and workforce organizations to anchor a local ecosystem. 

We view the role of WDBs as critically important to advocating for those with barriers to employment, educating the region on what drives impactful solutions in the workforce, and strengthening the regional economy through partnerships. Fair Chance strategies meet all three of these parameters. SCPa Works is scaling FCE programs and initiatives to help support hundreds of individuals impacted by the criminal justice system. It continues to expand its reach in providing educational workshops and training for regional businesses about how to best build a supportive organizational culture for all workers, and the partnership between SCPa Works and Envoy reminds us that our most  impactful work is done as a collective.

As we move from Second Chance awareness to implementation, we would share these three ideas with WDBs around the country: 

  1. Train your employer-facing staff to advocate and educate on Fair Chance employment.

  2. Identify high-potential Fair Chance employers in your region and provide them the coaching and partnerships needed to be successful and become long-term champions.

  3. Use your convening power and platform to align business, government, and nonprofits on the importance of Fair Chance employment and a common agenda to expand opportunity for candidates with past convictions.  

We would welcome the opportunity to share our FCE experiences and strategies, and we look forward to helping build more bridges between employers and justice-impacted jobseekers in the year ahead.  


Jesse McCree is the CEO of SCPa Works, the workforce development board for South Central Pennsylvania.  

Matt Joyce is a Partner at Envoy, a social impact consulting firm with a practice focused on Fair Chance employment



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