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MP Correctional Facility career fair gets inmates in touch with resources after prison

Facility looking for more employers to attend

Submitted photo

Inmates talk to business representatives during a career fair at the Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility. The facility has held a career fair in the spring and fall for the past three years and were the first in the state to do so. The next career fair is Thursday, Nov. 15.
Submitted photo Inmates talk to business representatives during a career fair at the Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility. The facility has held a career fair in the spring and fall for the past three years and were the first in the state to do so. The next career fair is Thursday, Nov. 15.

For employers looking for employees, Jeremy Howk wants them to tap into the untapped workforce at the Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility.

The Correctional Facility will host a career fair for inmates on Thursday, Nov. 15, and is inviting local businesses and any businesses that are interested in hiring to attend. Howk, a plant operations manager at the facility, said the inmates who really want to change will be a company’s best employees.

“They’ll never miss a day; they never call in sick,” Howk said.

The Correctional Facility was the second in Iowa to adopt a career fair in the fall of 2016. Since then, they have held two career fairs a year with great success, even having inmates hired before they were released from prison.

Employers and representatives from service agencies will get a chance to tour the Correctional Facility before the career fair.

“We don’t want the (inmates) to be viewed as people in jumpsuits with handcuffs behind bars,” said Terry Zmolek, a re-entry adviser with Iowa Workforce Development. Taking a tour of the facility opens employers eyes and humanizes the men who live in the facility, he said.

Following the tour, employers will attend a workshop to discuss the benefits of hiring former incarcerated people.

“A big fear for offenders is that they will never get a job,” Zmolek said, who works with inmates to create resumes. “When they have good conversations with employers it builds confidence, and that’s huge.”

“They’re as excited as a 10-year-old kid on Christmas when an employer shows interest,” Howk said.

The career fair does more than get inmates in touch with resources after prison. It gives them a chance to interact with people outside of the facility and work on their social skills, Zmolek said.

In addition to businesses looking for employees, service providers like the Department of Transportation, Southeastern Community College and religious groups will be present. Organizations like those provide options for former inmates after they are released from prison.

Representation from the DOT is especially important because former inmates will need a driver’s license after they are released, Howk said.

Zmolek said a lot of the inmates have amazing skills, utilizing the apprenticeship programs offered to them at the Correctional Facility. The apprenticeship programs include welding, upholstery, maintenance repair, computer operations, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic, plumber, painter, carpenter and landscape management technician.

The tour begins at 9 a.m. The career fair is from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Lunch will be provided.

About 70 inmates are expected to attend the career fair, along with 20 employers and 10 service providers.

To register, visit https://mpcfjobfair2018.eventbrite.com. There is no fee.

For additional details, contact Terry Zmolek at 319-385-9511 Ext. 2277 or by email at terry.zmolek@iwd.iowa.gov.