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SLU Hosts Virtual Second Chance Job Fair

07/29/2020

Saint Louis University's Transformative Workforce Academy (TWA) hosted its first virtual Second Chance Job Fair on Thursday, July 9. The innovative concept allowed justice-involved job seekers to pre-record a two-minute video presentation to be viewed by employers over Zoom, after which employers selected which candidates they would like to follow up with additional questions or next steps.

TWA is a program based out of the Center for Workforce and Organizational Development that connects justice-involved job seekers to employment. Since 2018, the program has been hosting Second Chance Job Fairs at Chaifetz Arena, providing job seekers an opportunity to meet employers willing to look beyond their criminal record.

This event, believed to be the largest of its kind in the country, was initially set for Wednesday, April 1, but was postponed due to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) public health crisis. Once it became clear that large in-person events would not be safe in the near future, TWA reimagined the format of a virtual event to ensure it remained accessible to job seekers, many of whom have limited access to technology.

Many employers attributed this success to the “reverse” nature of the fair. Individuals with criminal records go up against a massive stigma when looking for jobs, but the video presentations allowed them to share their story on their terms, putting their full humanity on display.

One employer noted that getting to know candidates in depth through videos is “way more engaging than brief encounters at busy career fairs.”

TWA settled on a “reverse” job fair format, in which job seekers could answer a set of prompts in a pre-recorded video played for employers. Through this format, job seekers could record on their phones any time in the weeks leading up to the fair, as opposed to needing a computer and Wi-Fi to attend the fair live.

On Thursday, July 9, employers gathered on a Zoom call to watch job seekers’ videos and learn more about second chance employment. Of the 74 job seekers who participated in the virtual fair, all received follow up contact from at least one employer. An average of eight employers were interested in each job seeker participating in the fair.

The event was sponsored by Centene, Regional Business Council and the Clark-Fox Family Foundation.

Submitted by Lisa Cohn.