Even in a strong job market, and even for those with work experience, a job search can be challenging. It’s doubly difficult for those with a history of incarceration, drug abuse or chronic unemployment — any of which could disqualify applicants in the eyes of many employers.
In Lexington, Kentucky, the nonprofit Jubilee Jobs has been helping workers in need of a second chance navigate this bumpy road since 2009. The organization’s mission is simple, according to Chief Executive Officer Mason King: “For people who are facing obstacles to employment, we help them obtain and maintain quality permanent jobs.” In 2023 alone, Jubilee Jobs was on track to place 500 clients with 151 different employers in Central Kentucky.
“A lot of our clients are demoralized when they come in,” King says. “They’ve become pariahs in the community because of their mistakes or life choices.” A well-paying job, he notes, communicates to them that they can still be valued members of society. And it helps more than just the jobholder, King adds: “Over 1,600 children have been impacted this past year as a result of the clients we’ve secured jobs for.”
Jubilee Jobs takes clients through a seven-step process that includes workshops offering help in creating a resume, navigating a job interview and resolving conflicts. A post-employment program supports job longevity and overall financial stability. At regular “Move Up” meetings, for instance, current and former clients might learn about saving money or filing their taxes.
In July 2023, at the request of Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton, Jubilee Jobs launched a new initiative in the Fayette County Detention Center. Called Second Chance Academy, this two-year program will help 100 inmates a year with successful reentry into the community. Inmates within six months of their release can take courses designed to help them develop job skills, get ready for the workplace and answer questions about their past at job interviews.
Upon their release, Jubilee Jobs will provide one year of assistance to help these former inmates secure and maintain quality jobs. Noting studies that have found that more than two-thirds of state prisoners in the U.S. end up back in prison within three years,footnote1 King says, “The number one determinant of recidivism is employment. Simply helping an individual get and keep a job for a year can cut the rate dramatically.”
As part of Second Chance Academy, Jubilee Jobs is also partnering with local agencies to provide parenting classes for inmates. King says, “We try to broaden their vision for their lives and tie employment to goals such as getting their kids back in their lives, as well as owning a home and being successful long enough to get their record expunged.”
Funding from Bank of America provides Jubilee Jobs with operational support. “We don’t charge our clients or the employers we serve,” King says. “Support from partners like Bank of America — it’s how we do what we do.”
King recalls a client telling him that all he’d done for 40 years was get high or sell drugs. Now, the client said, “I’m ready to get a job that I’m not embarrassed to tell my grandmother about.” With Jubilee Jobs’ support, he rose from cleaning restrooms to regional manager for a company that provides cleaning services to restaurants. “He’s on a three-year track to be the next general manager across the entire state,” King says. “It’s all because he was willing to say, ‘I’m going to own my past mistakes.’”
There are countless stories like this, King says. “We know that second-chance employment is not just possible, it’s plausible. People’s lives do change.”
From entrepreneur funding and expanding home ownership to professional skills training and healthcare access, Bank of America continues to partner with innovative leaders to help communities implement solutions to society’s important challenges.