Fair Chance Hiring Even Better With Fair Chance Training

When industry and labor organizations use their collective power to encourage not only hiring people with criminal records but also preparing this population for high-quality jobs, employers and workers both benefit.

Published jul. 15, 2021

This blog post is the third in a series, Making the Case for Fair Chance Hiring.


As a growing number of industry leaders give people with criminal records a fair chance in hiring, some are taking action to shatter another major barrier to their ability to enter the labor market. Equitable hiring practices don’t make a difference for folks who can’t access training to gain the skills they need for quality jobs.

Fair chance hiring emphasizes considering applicants based on their skills rather than excluding them based on their criminal records or the time they’ve spent in prison. Two of the nation’s major labor and industry organizations that have embraced fair chance hiring—North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA)—have expanded their focus to include preparing people with records for the jobs they offer.

“We need to expand the opportunities to bring talented people to industry, including people with records,” says Tom Kriger, NABTU’s director of education and research. “To meet the talent demand, we need to move from pilot (training) programs to sustainability so we can reach everyone.”

What is Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeship is a workforce training model that combines paid on-the-job learning and formal classroom or online instruction to help a worker master the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed for career success.

Visit JFF's Center for Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning

When Justice and Apprenticeship Align

Both NABTU and WIA have begun to leverage their platforms to address these issues, each promoting apprenticeship programs as a vehicle for widening talent development opportunities in their industries.

“There is no longer a discussion of justice reform over there, and apprenticeships over here,” says NABTU’s Kriger.

NABTU provides pre-apprenticeship training at prisons in five states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada, and Rhode Island. Graduates are well positioned to join a Registered Apprenticeship program; NABTU offers over 1,600 such programs across the country.

Recognizing that some candidates may need additional preparation for Registered Apprenticeship training, NABTU also sponsors Apprenticeship Readiness Programs through local building trades councils. The programs, which are open to people with felony convictions, are aligned with Registered Apprenticeships in the local community to ensure a well-supported training pathway to occupations in the trades.

We need to expand the opportunities to bring talented people to industry, including people with records.

NABTU has also partnered with community-based organizations that specifically serve the formerly incarcerated. For example, the Flintridge Center, in Pasadena, California, offers an Apprenticeship Preparation Program that trains people for careers in the construction industry. The Anti-Recidivism Coalition, which administers the Second Chance Union Training Program at Southwest College in Los Angeles, has prepared and placed hundreds of formerly incarcerated men and women on the HireLAX airport renovation project, as well as the Reimagining Re-entry Program in Pittsburgh, PA.

The building trades have long been considered a “friendly” industry for people with criminal records, routinely hiring people who have spent time in prison. NABTU has championed this trend by supporting state and local legislation that make it harder for employers to bypass people who have been incarcerated and even to incentivize employers to hire people with records. These include “ban the box” policies that prohibit employers from asking about prior convictions on job applications and city ordinances that require fair chance hiring for contracting awards.

A "Pathway to Second Chances"

The technology sector, in contrast, has not traditionally been perceived as an industry that provides opportunity for people with criminal records. WIA, which includes wireless carriers, infrastructure providers, and firms that own and manage over 140,000 telecommunications facilities throughout the United States, is working to change that. The industry’s rapid innovation and scale have created an unprecedented need for expanding its workforce, and WIA sees this as an argument to increase support for fair chance hiring and training.

WIA was instrumental in launching the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP), which seeks to engage people with criminal records in apprenticeship training. Tim House, WIA’s executive vice president, sees the program as a “pathway to second chances.” WIA became the U.S. Department of Labor-recognized National Sponsor in 2017 and participation in the TIRAP network has grown to 52 companies and training for 11 occupations. Apprentices earn a national credential, recognized by the Department of Labor, in occupations including wireless technicians, tower technicians, and utilities workers, that are valid with any of the participating companies.

“5G is expected to create 4.6 million direct and indirect jobs in the next decade,” says House. “Our industry is explicit about eliminating collateral consequences (for people with records) and engaging with diverse, underrepresented populations to meet an unprecedented demand for skilled labor.”

To meet the talent demand, we need to move from pilot (training) programs to sustainability so we can reach everyone.

Industry Organizations and the Power of the Group

The experiences of NABTU and WIA illustrate how industry and labor associations, with constituencies of employers and workers, can play a key role in amplifying the value of fair chance hiring and fair chance training to individual employers. They can also elevate efforts to ensure these practices advance industry workforce needs.

Here are some specific actions industry and labor organizations can take to give people reentering the community after incarceration a fair chance:

  • Mobilize collective commitment to make fair chance hiring a routine part of talent development and expand training opportunities for people with records.
  • Provide sector-specific guidance for employers to implement fair chance hiring and to offer industry-recognized training for people with records.
  • Ensure that diversity goals are at the heart of efforts to expand the talent pipeline for each industry—and that these efforts include people with records.

Creating these connections matters when it comes to maintaining momentum for fair chance hiring and training, Kriger of NABTU says. “A group action will be stronger. It will impact the entire industry not just an individual employer.”


This work was generously funded by a grant from the Justice and Mobility Fund at Blue Meridian Partners. The Justice and Mobility Fund is a collaboration launched by The Ford Foundation and Blue Meridian Partners with support from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies.