Second chances: A different approach to finding workers

October 27, 2010

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Last week’s "Welding Wire" e-newsletter described what Turner Industries did to find workers for a pipe fabrication shop it built two years ago in Pasadena, Texas. As related in an article on chron.com, Personnel Manager Brian Daigle needed to hire 100 workers quickly, because the company had orders to fill from refineries and chemical plants. With most people working — "the economy was blowing and going" and "everyone who wanted to work already had a job" — a traditional staffing firm could not meet the hiring needs. The company had to "think outside of the box."

Daigle heard about a nonprofit Cenikor Foundation drug and alcohol treatment program that needed work for its soon-to-graduate residents and toured the facility, where he observed that the residents were eager and inspired to learn. Many had trouble finding jobs because they had felony drug and other convictions. 

Despite his front-line supervisors' reluctance, Daigle opted to train the recovering addicts in welding, fabricating, and materials handling jobs that pay $10.50 an hour for entry-level helpers to $24 an hour for craft work. 

Daigle said, "We've had a few bumps in the road" — some who failed the random drug tests or walked off the job. But as the article noted, that happens with workers hired from the general population, too. 

Referring to the recovering addicts, Daigle said, "They're motivated employees. They appreciate the company for giving them a second chance. I think most of them know the company and me personally will do anything to help them succeed." 

Turner Industries reportedly receives no wage subsidies or tax incentives for participating. Currently 25 employees, about 20 percent of its total workforce, are from the Cenikor program. 

Daigle is so enthusiastic about the program that he promotes it to fellow business executives. But so far there hasn't been a lot of interest. Daigle doesn't understand the hesitance. His once reluctant supervisors now ask for Cenikor employees. 

"Welding Wire" then asked its readers to share their thoughts about Turner's out-of-the-box method of finding workers. All of those who took advantage of this opportunity to comment were very supportive. Here’s what some had to say: 

First to respond was the vice president of manufacturing and operations for a company that makes aluminum forming systems, who simply said, "Great idea. I am going to look into a similar concept after reading this." 

Another reader said, "This program will bring its risks but it appears to be an exciting way to help one in need, and hey, we must take a certain amount of risk; besides, at least you pretty much know what you're getting starting out so if one or two relapse and drop out, you  knew that might happen, no surprise."

A reader who works for a fabricating shop in the northeast expressed his approval while also commenting on other matters: "It is always a positive thing when humanity can reach out to humanity and help its fellow human beings. Unfortunately, our federal government thinks they should have a monopoly on this and should control the help and handouts. Down with teachers unions. They have been hijacked by the left and put out a terrible product answering to no one.

"With all the degradation going on in the U.S., it is still unfathomable that we have a political split between those that produce and those that don't. We are at the tipping point. Don't kid yourself! This country is in real trouble. 

"Kudos to this guy (Daigle).  At least he has enough business to enable him to be so gracious."

A reader from a company that supports and assists the U.S. Navy in areas of salvage, diving, pollution response, and underwater ship husbandry, wrote: "I think that is great; all too many people in our society are being thrown away. People do make mistakes; some will never recover and change, but all are in the same pigeonhole. 

"There are places for everyone, and instead of looking down on people that make a mistake, be very glad you had a chance. 

"Some like Brian Daigle and his company, who have taken the chance, have been rewarded. There are others out there waiting for their chance; they just need someone to give it to them." 

A welding shop owner wrote perhaps the most poignant response: "A using addict is worth almost zero, even when he owns the company! A recovering person (you can find yourself clean) is worth everything second chances offer. Still grateful going on 20 years of second chances ..."

 With so many U.S. workers unemployed, it must be particularly difficult for recovering addicts to find work. It is indeed admirable that companies like Turner are giving them opportunities. I also hope these companies will consider the returning servicemen and -women who are finding it difficult to find jobs. They also need your help.

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