Nonprofit, Google Partnering on Digital Training for Formerly Incarcerated

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Photo: The Fortune Society

Above Kenneth, a client with The Fortune Society, gains valuable digital skills for job readiness with the help of Fortune's Employment Services department. Fortune helps clients improve their digital literacy and prepares them for life after incarceration.

As part of Second Chance Month The Fortune Society (Fortune) is joining the Grow with Google Career Readiness for Reentry program, an initiative to provide free digital skills and job readiness training to formerly incarcerated individuals.

The program is in partnership with five nonprofits that have successfully developed and delivered high-quality job training to returning citizens: Fortune Society, The Last Mile, Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), Defy Ventures, and The Ladies of Hope Ministries.

The program’s training will focus on fundamental digital skills such as how to apply for jobs online and create a resume, along with more advanced topics including entrepreneurship and business budgeting. In total, the program will train 10,000 participants this year.

Fortune, headquartered in Harlem and Long Island City, is one of the nation’s leading nonprofit reentry service and advocacy organizations serving 9,000 justice-involved individuals in New York City every year.

Each year, 600,000 Americans transition out of incarceration and face barriers to reentering the workforce. The unemployment rate for returning citizens is five times the national average, and returning citizens who are Black experience an even higher jobless rate due to systemic racism. The increasingly digital nature of work presents another challenge to workforce reentry. 82 percent of middle-skill jobs in the United States require digital skills, making the employment process difficult for those who lost access to technology while in prison.

“Lack of access to digital skills training and job coaching puts formerly incarcerated individuals at a severe disadvantage when trying to reenter the workforce and increase their economic potential,” said Malika Saada Saar, Global Head of Human Rights at YouTube, a subsidiary of Google. “We are thrilled to work alongside program partners who have demonstrated true expertise and leadership in supporting successful reentry through digital skills training to men and women, mothers and fathers, impacted by incarceration.”

“Justice involved individuals often have major deficits when it comes to digital literacy. The pandemic exposed these shortfalls in ways that were unimaginable before COVID. The Fortune Society is honored to partner with Google to help our participants increase their digital literacy skills and capacity to secure and maintain sustainable employment with a livable wage,” said Ronald F. Day, Ph.D., Vice President of Programs at The Fortune Society. “Thanks to Google, our participants will be equipped to compete in this highly competitive job market. When provided an opportunity our clients excel. This benefits our participants, their families, and the entire community.”

Alongside other program partners The Fortune Society collaborated with Google and the program’s nonprofit partners to identify the needs of returning individuals, resulting in five program Learning Paths: (1) Getting Started with the Basics, (2) Job Search, (3) Job Readiness, (4) Online Safety, and (5) “Next Step” Job Readiness Skills. Fortune will integrate this curriculum into its existing job readiness programs and will provide job placement support to help place learners into paid apprenticeships and jobs.

The program’s content is a mix of video- and project-based learning on Google’s Applied Digital Skills curriculum and partner-facilitated workshops to accommodate the wide range of the reentry population needs. Googlers have been assigned to each nonprofit to support staff and to offer one-on-one coaching to help participants with job interviews and resume development.

The program is part of Google’s racial equity commitments and builds on the company’s ongoing investments in criminal justice reform. Since 2015, Google has given more than $40 million to nonprofits advancing criminal justice reform, and $60 million to organizations working to expand access to hands-on computer science learning.

Any nonprofit organization offering training to the reentry population can join the Grow with Google Partner Program and access resources, workshop materials and hands-on help, free of cost.

For more information, visit www.fortunesociety.org.

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