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US Job Losses Spurs Demand for Training


As U.S. job losses continue to rise to their highest level in decades, the demand for training programs is also increasing.

This is especially true for an estimated 700,000 people being released from the nation's prisons and jails this year.

Job training for ex-offenders

There is a program in Washington, D.C. that is helping ex-offenders find work during this economic downturn.

"So you want to make sure you have the right product for the right job," Morris Queen tells his students.

In the classroom Queen teaches his students the skills they need to land a job as a janitor. For these men and women, finding work is even more challenging because many of them are ex-convicts.

Andre Clinton, 29, says he's come a long way since leaving prison.

"At first I didn't have anything and now I have an opportunity to make myself better and put my background and that life behind me," he said. "The negativity, put all that behind me and just drive on, just keep pushing."

Goodwill Industries integrating ex-offenders

These former convicts in Washington, D.C. are part of a nationwide program run by Goodwill Industries that helps ex-offenders find a job.

"There is a huge need in this country for integrating ex-offenders back into communities," said Goodwill President Jim Gibbons. "We will end up hurting communities if we are not successful in allowing folks to, and enabling them, to have the skills to be successful in work."

In 2007, Goodwill agencies helped nearly 82,000 current and former prisoners obtain job skills, housing and substance abuse counseling.

Karen Edwards is confident that with her course certification she will find a job cleaning hospitals.

As a former drug user who dropped out of high school, she's striving now to make a meaningful life for herself.

"I went from having my name on bench warrants and criminal court papers. Now I want my name on something positive," she said. "I want my name on a certificate, something that I can be proud of and my son can remember me by. "

Morris Queen says while job skills are important he tries to motivate these ex-offenders to find a job that will lead to a rewarding career.

"Our students have been survivors and they are not strangers to the struggle. So what we strive to do is to convert that struggle and convert their striving into strengths that will propel them forward," he said.

Nathanel Bailey, 55, spent 22 years of his life in prison. Now he says he's prepared to enter the work force and begin making a contribution to his community.

"I have a bright future and I am confident in saying that," he said.

Goodwill says its programs are making an impact by giving former convicts a second chance that will help them from returning to a life of crime.

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