Second Chance Job Fair Connects Returning Citizens with Jobs
One of the biggest challenges for people who have been released from incarceration is finding a job. A 2018 report by TalentFirst (formerly Talent 2025) indicated less than 2% of West Michigan employers were hiring individuals with a prior conviction at that time

And yet, research shows that hiring people with criminal records can benefit not only the individuals, but the employers who hire them and the communities where they live and work.

A study by Thirty-Two-Two, an initiative advocating for post-incarceration employment opportunities in West Michigan, found that returning citizens tend to be more dedicated to their employers, with lower turn-over rates and higher productivity than other employees. And having a steady job has shown to decrease the chances that a person would commit another crime.

West Michigan Works! began hosting virtual job fairs in 2018 for individuals who have been convicted of an offense and released from incarceration. The Second Chance job fair featured “parolee-friendly employers. Parolee-friendly employers consider many factors when making hiring choices; in addition to skills and qualifications, they consider the type of conviction and the specific job duties/responsibilities of a position.

The Second Chance Job Fair is a win-win for returning citizens AND employers.


“Working with second chance programs has been an outstanding source of talent for our organization. We have been able to hire several amazing employees we would never have come across were it not for these programs.”
– John McMahon, senior HR generalist at Montage Furniture Services, participant in the upcoming job fair.

In addition to Montage, participating employers included Arrow Staffing, Alliance Home Health Care, Dean Transportation, Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch, Hutchinson Antivibration Systems, Metal Technologies, Middleville Tool & Die, Pioneer Resources and Praxis Packaging.

The Second Chance Job Fair allowed participants to discuss prior convictions and employment skills directly with a potential employer. It provides them the opportunity to become more than their conviction and more than another application on the hiring manager’s desk.    

The Second Chance Job Fair is not currently running. Check out the Ag-Jobs-4-All Job Fairs to meet employers of choice seeking candidates from opportunity populations, including veterans, returning citizens, people with disabilities and refugees. Also, plan to attend the next West Michigan Works! Virtual Job Fair.