Hiring Formerly Incarcerated May Help Close Manufacturing Skill Gap

By Kellie Rondon on Jun 08, 2023
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Manufacturing companies face stiff competition for workers as business booms and the labor force skills gap shows no signs of closing. More than 2 million unfilled manufacturing positions by 2030 are on the horizon. This imbalance is spurring industry organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers to recommend that manufacturers consider hiring the formerly incarcerated for open positions.

About 27% of the 5 million ex-offenders in the United States are unemployed. Hiring members of this group could go a long way toward filling the 803,000 manufacturing jobs available as of January 2023. 

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Second-Chance Hiring in Manufacturing

Second-chance hiring can deliver benefits to manufacturers and the community at large. Among them: 

  • Prior Training

    Some formerly incarcerated people may have received manufacturing-related training while in prison. This may create a natural transition for them into roles on your factory floor.  
  • Highly Motivated

    Perhaps because they face significant obstacles to getting hired, ex-felons are largely known to be highly motivated, loyal, engaged and productive workers
  • Lower Turnover

    Workers who are ex-offenders have 12.2% lower turnover rates on average than those with no criminal histories, according to two recent studies. 
  • Reduced Crime Rates

    Being employed is one of the most significant reasons ex-offenders do not return to prison. By hiring them, employers are helping to reduce crime. 
  • Tax Credits

    Employers who hire the formerly incarcerated may qualify for certain tax credits.  

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5 HR Strategies for Second-Chance Hiring

Naturally, small manufacturing companies may be concerned about hiring someone who was formerly imprisoned. If your business is considering whether to hire people with criminal records, five HR strategies can mitigate concerns and help both employer and employee find success in second-chance hiring: 

1. Establish company policies specific to hiring ex-offenders

These should take into consideration state and federal compliance issues and how to meld these new policies into your existing hiring practices. 

2. Match the candidate with the job

Consider the offense and assign ex-felons to positions and areas of the company not related to their crimes. If the candidate committed fraud for example, a job involving finance would not be advisable. 

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3. Take time into consideration

The length of time since the candidate was released can be an indication of how likely or not the person is to re-offend. The longer someone maintains a clean record after leaving prison, the more time the ex-offender has had to learn from past mistakes and make behavioral and mental health improvements.

With each successive year former prisoners remain free without committing another crime, the likelihood of their returning to criminal activity declines, research has found. After five to 10 years, an ex-offender has no higher probability of committing a crime than someone with no record. 

4. Assess recent behaviors

Look at the candidate’s conduct during and after incarceration. Having a good record – both while in prison and afterward – is an encouraging sign, as is evidence of having gone through some rehabilitation. 

5. Commit to training and team building

These are two essentials for any job, but especially for workers who need additional support to feel confident in their jobs and feel part of a company’s culture. Consider what your leadership needs to do to help former felons feel accepted and valued. 

increasing women in manufacturing


Hiring someone with a criminal record may seem like an unusual move, but with well-prepared policies, commitment to training and an inclusive culture, manufacturers have the potential to hire formerly incarcerated workers who will become positive, long-time employee contributors. 

Don’t go it alone. Seek direction from an HR compliance specialist at Axcet HR Solutions to help prepare a foundation so you can tap into the formerly imprisoned population to fill jobs at your growing manufacturing business.

Axcet HR Solutions HR PEO Services

Written by Kellie Rondon

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