Editor’s Note: Cross-posted from BCLC blog,One Company’s $60,000 Commitment to Jobs,” June 18, 2012.

In our recent job creation blog series, BCLC has taken a look at the “ecosystem” of creating and sustaining jobs. Our jobs ecosystem theory is that we need to view companies as part of large interconnected networks. ARAMARK and the ARAMARK Building Community program offer us a glimpse into how connecting points can come to life in the business-society ecosystem.

ARAMARK’s community involvement focus is on strengthening the ability of local community centers to serve families in need. Unemployment, underemployment, and a skilled workforce continue to be key issues in today’s society and in building strong families and thriving communities. The ARAMARK Building Community 2012 Innovation Awards for Workforce Readiness help advance community centers’ efforts to prepare people for the workforce and connect them to jobs.

Through the granting of three recent prizes worth a total of $60,000, in partnership with United Neighborhood Centers of America and the Alliance for Children and Families, the ARAMARK Building Community Innovation Awards support the ongoing development and sustainability of successful workforce programs  in three areas:

  • Business Ventures as Training Ground
  • Job Skills Training to Re-Integrate Former Inmates
  • Job Prep for Growth Industries

Business Ventures as Training Ground

My hometown of Dayton, Ohio, has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs. Today, numerous buildings and homes sit vacant and dilapidating in what were once vibrant neighborhoods. A 2012 Innovation Award winner, East End Community Services, has helped place 113 people in permanent jobs through training opportunities and job creation at Dayton Works Plus, a business operated by the community center to give “a second chance to materials and people through deconstruction.” Dayton Plus Works creates jobs and job-training opportunities for hard-to-employ individuals by salvaging and selling materials from vacant, foreclosed, and dilapidated homes. Salvaged materials are sold globally through Dayton Works Plus’ retail operation, Deconstruction Depot. Money raised from sales supports the costs of the program. This business model ties together neighborhood revitalization, education reform, housing and community development, job creation, and employment training.

Job Creation, Skills Training, and Growth Industries

Family Service Agency in Phoenix and Casa Central in Chicago, also 2012 Innovation Award winners, focus on job creation and skills training, as well.

Through the Community Re-Integration Program, Family Service Agency (FSA) addresses the need to create more jobs and training opportunities for the approximately 90,000 adults on probation or parole in Arizona. The program also educates area businesses about reasons to hire former inmates and helps to reduce the stigma that can slow an individual’s re-integration. In one year, the program recruited 45 employers as hiring partners and helped 46 individuals achieve gainful employment with an average pay of $11.00/hour. The recidivism rate (returning to prison) of program participants is less than 3%, compared to an estimated 34% for ex-offenders nationwide within 18 months of release.

Here’s one example of how the FSA Community Re-Integration Program makes a difference: Zachary Cook’s life spiraled out of control after the unexpected death of his mother, and hit rock bottom when he was arrested for check forgery. Zachary was unable to pay his power bill and sent to prison, despite a prior clean criminal record. Released nine months later with only $20 and the clothes on his back, he was overwhelmed by the challenge to transition from prison to society — until the owner of his halfway house introduced him to Family Service Agency. The thorough job training Zachary received at FSA helped rebuild his confidence and enabled him to land a career as a Social Media Creator, which he calls his “dream job.” He rebuilt his belongings, rents his own apartment and has a renewed sense of self-worth.

Casa Central’s focus is on the growing healthcare industry and the need in Chicago to have Spanish bilingual nurse aides who can help serve the aging population. The community center’s Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Training Program provides low-income, bilingual Hispanic individuals with job training to secure jobs. Since its inception in 1980, the CNA training program has trained and placed more than 1,000 professionals in healthcare jobs. As part of the program, additional supportive services, such as emergency housing and child care, are provided to help residents maintain employment.

Congratulations to these three award winners, who each received $20,000 in financial support from ARAMARK.

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