Partnership offers former criminals hospitality work in Michigan

click to enlarge Partnership offers former criminals hospitality work in Michigan

A new program will help fill a labor shortage in Michigan’s foodservice industry while helping those exiting the justice system secure a job.

The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA) announced Wednesday it is partnering with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) to bring the Hospitality Opportunities for People (re)Entering Society (HOPES) program to Michigan.

HOPES is a job skills program that trains those exiting the justice system for jobs in the restaurant and hospitality industries.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration awarded NRAEF a $4 million grant to launch HOPES in four states – Michigan, Delaware, Ohio, and Texas.

“We are honored to play a role in bringing the HOPES program to communities in Michigan to both create a pathway for justice involved individuals into an industry that can become a lifelong career and provide solutions to restaurants and hotels facing a statewide workforce shortage,” MRLA President and CEO Justin Winslow said in a statement.

The unemployment rate for individuals leaving the justice system is five times the national average.

HOPES provides skills training, mentoring, and job placement services to those leaving the justice system so they can re-enter society and build a pathway to financial stability and independence.

“The hospitality industry is known for being a first job opportunity and offering second chances to people from all backgrounds. With more than 30,000 industry job openings currently in Michigan, the HOPES program providing training and employment opportunities to justice-involved individuals is a viable way to support communities while helping operators hire,” MRLA Executive Director of Educational Foundation Amanda Smith said in a statement. “Our partnership with the NRAEF allows us to bring life-changing programs like HOPES to Michigan.”

HOPES partners with Departments of Corrections, community-based organizations, and state restaurant associations. Although COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in Michigan, business owners face fierce competition to attract workers. 

Republicans blame the labor shortage on boosted $300/week unemployment benefits extended through September 6. 

Partner organizations provide case management services and industry-recognized credentials. HOPES partners with interested individuals at participating correctional facilities, as well as after release and during parole. Once a HOPES participant completes training, the individual will be placed in a local restaurant or foodservice position and receive follow-up support for one year.

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