Some employers might put people who have criminal convictions or who have exited prison in the ‘too hard basket’, but Jesuit Social Services’ employment programs don’t give up on people.
“We follow the Jesuit ethos ‘everybody is worth helping’. It doesn’t matter the criminal history – how recent or distant. It doesn’t matter whether their employability or communication skills are low. As long as they are willing to engage in the program, we will do our best to assist them,” says Rob Auger, Operations Manager for Jesuit Social Services’ Employment Programs.
“We believe very strongly in multiple chances as well. Provided the person is taking forward steps and working with us to address the barriers that are holding them back from employment, we’re always willing to give them another shot.”
Alongside people who’ve had contact with the justice system, programs support other groups who often experience barriers to getting a job, including young people in out-of-home care, asylum seekers and people with refugee backgrounds, and others from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
The Victorian Government supports some of these initiatives offering tailored support to each participant – whether it be increasing their confidence so they can find work themselves, building interview skills, improving resumes, or placing them into work with organisations Jesuit Social Services has pre-existing relationships with.
“We look at employment as the final step to independence. But other things have to be in place first,” Rob says. “Participants may come directly from Jesuit Social Services’ own justice programs, but if participants need help in other areas before they’re ready for work – such as housing or mental health support – the program connects them to the support they need. And once a participant has gained employment, Jesuit Social Services continues to provide support such as troubleshooting workplace issues or connecting them to training to facilitate their career development.”
“I like to think that if you give a person the opportunity to shine, give them the skills and show them some understanding, that person will want to show loyalty to the work.”
Rob says a big part of the work is helping employers understand that our participants are ready and willing to work. “We support participants to advocate for themselves – to show employers that they’ve learned from their mistakes and are ready to put them in the past and take the next step.
“Some of our participants have had a lot of doors closed on them and know their options are limited. I like to think – and we see this quite often – that if you give a person the opportunity to shine, give them the skills and show them some understanding, that person will want to show loyalty to the work.”
While much of Jesuit Social Services’ work is supported by funds from the Victorian State Government, a lot of our efforts supporting participants into employment is not. We rely on support from our donors to be able to continue providing these services.