By: Frances McGinley, 2017-2018 Work First Fellow
Frances McGinley is completing her fellowship in the San Francisco office and is the only Work First Fellow on the West Coast. America Works in San Francisco primarily serves the justice involved population, which includes any individuals who ever been arrested or served time in jail or prison.
The San Francisco office has just six employees (including Frances). Due to the smaller nature of the team, Frances has been able to help out with all aspects of the office’s operations during the past 10 months. Frances spends a lot of time working alongside the Site Director to make sure all of the site’s data collection and contract requirements are being met. Additionally, she dedicates herself to teaching and designing various classes for clients including job readiness, digital literacy, and basic finance.
The digital literacy trainings have been especially rewarding for Frances to teach. Many clients who are returning from prison have been isolated from technology for many years, so providing them with the skills they need to operate computers and smartphones is life changing. Through a partnership with the city, participants in the class have also been able to receive a free refurbished PC after they complete the training.
Frances has been able to teach some of these classes inside the San Francisco jail to prepare inmates for employment before they are even released. Some of these clients have since been released and have come to work with Frances at the America Works office. Helping clients transition into society after incarceration has been the best part of her Fellowship experience.
Frances has also been able to assist in a variety of job placements for these justice-involved individuals. Frances has made connections with several Bay Area employers, one of them being Checkr, a background check company that is trying to incorporate people with criminal records into their operations. Frances was able to place six clients into roles as Applicant Support Representatives.
Frances’ research is centered around determining the best practices for hiring people with criminal records. She has surveyed employers who hire individuals with records and America Works clients who have been working at these companies. The goal of her research is to see how employers are able to successfully hire and retain employees with criminal records as well as quantify the social impact of these practices to create a playbook for other companies interested in hiring from this population.