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Second Chance Hiring Works For Union Pacific

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Finding and keeping a job can be challenging for people with criminal records. These jobseekers face exclusionary business practices and logistical obstacles, which result in an unemployment rate for this population that is five times higher than the general US public. To minimize this inequality, The Manufacturing Institute—the workforce development and education partner of the NAM—has joined with Union Pacific to expand candidate pools and bring more outstanding individuals into the manufacturing industry.

A second chance: Union Pacific began working on the second chance initiative last year, and the results have already proven fruitful.

  • In 2022, the company launched a pilot program with local community organizations in Houston to eliminate barriers to employment for the formerly incarcerated and helped ensure the long-term success of these second chance candidates.
  • In its first three months, the program brought in nearly 100 new applications and created positive relationships and support systems.

The steps to success: The Union Pacific team discovered that three components were critical to helping candidates find jobs and succeed:

  • First, companies interested in hiring such candidates must update their own hiring practices and rethink potential barriers for otherwise qualified candidates—whether that means adjusting onerous required credentials or background checks.
  • Second, partnerships and strong relationships with local community partners can help ensure that these candidates have the support they need to be successful. Tools like the MI’s Community Partnership Scorecard helped Union Pacific find partners that fit well with their goals.
  • Third, establishing pilot initiatives in high-demand markets can help a company learn about best practices that can be replicated elsewhere. Plus, sharing experiences with other employers can help additional companies find success.

Expanding the program: Union Pacific’s current focus involves bringing the Second Chance initiative to new markets across the country to replicate the pilot program results.

  • “Everyone I speak with about our success in Houston wants to know how we can take this model and multiply,” said Union Pacific Talent Acquisition Manager Ken Kawamura.

Leaders in the field: With the success of this initiative, Union Pacific has become an industry leader in establishing inclusionary hiring practices and building community partnerships. The company hopes to help establish second chance programs throughout the country.

  • The Manufacturing Institute has been a critical partner in this work, providing information and resources necessary to its success.
  • “The MI is committed to supporting members in the pursuit of effective Second Chance initiatives,” said MI Vice President of Workforce Solutions Gardner Carrick. “Our goal is to leverage those learnings and strategies across the manufacturing industry to expand talent and opportunity in the sector.”

The last word: Union Pacific’s primary goal in pioneering this initiative is to build a more equitable workforce for all employees.

  • “In our eyes, once you are a part of Union Pacific, you are no different than any other employee, regardless of your background,” said Senior Director of Talent Acquisition Dan Culbertson.
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