City-PHS Partnership Provides Land Maintenance Training & Career Support to Returning Citizens
PHILADELPHIA, January. 27, 2016 – Philadelphia government and community leaders on Wednesday formally celebrated a partnership with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to connect returning citizens to training and job opportunities in land maintenance and care.
The Philadelphia LandCare Reentry Pilot Initiative assists citizens returning from incarceration with skills training and job readiness while creating a new workforce pipeline to landscape services contractors and Community LandCare (CLC) organizations. As a key partner in this initiative, the Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services (RISE) identifies, screens, and supports qualified applicants throughout the training and job placement process.
Ten prospective employers and approximately 50 applicants participated in the program’s first candidate interview sessions on Wednesday in City Hall. If the pilot is deemed successful, the program will expand to include more trainees and employers.
“This new initiative is an exceptional opportunity for returning citizens as well as the contractors and community groups who make the Philadelphia LandCare program such a success,” said Matt Rader, President of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. “PHS is very grateful to the city, Council President Clarke, the Office of Housing and Community Development, RISE, and The Enterprise Center for their support and partnership in this program, which will create green jobs and actually enhance the landscape for Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.”
“City Council proposed partnering with PHS for this initiative because we were seeing too many doors closed to returning citizens searching for employment opportunities,” Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) said. “I am excited to finally be able to say that the LandCare Reentry Initiative is a reality. Thank you to all of our partners, including PHS, RISE, and participating employers, for believing in second chances for those working to deserve them. To the returning citizens here today: Congratulations and best wishes as you journey toward a successful, productive life in the City of Philadelphia. It will not be easy, but we in City Council are committed to ensuring you have a fair shot at rebuilding your lives.”
On Sept. 18, 2014, Council President Clarke proposed a transfer of $500,000 from Prisons to the Office of Housing and Community Development to create the reentry initiative. The ordinance was unanimously approved by City Council on Nov. 20, 2014, and went into effect on Dec. 4, 2014, without former Mayor Michael A. Nutter’s signature.
Philadelphia LandCare Reentry Pilot Initiative trainees will gain experience in green jobs and landscaping. Participating landscape contractors and CLCs are permitted to add 100 parcels to their maintenance contracts for a total increase of at least 2,000 parcels in the LandCare vacant lots maintenance inventory. In addition, PHS is increasing the number of CLCs from 13 to 18, which will increase the total maintenance of vacant lots by another 1,000 parcels.
As a coordinating partner, PHS will host information sessions about the structure of the program, business tax incentives, federal bonding, and other benefits available to participating employers. Additional support will include workshops on technical skills and entrepreneurship in order to prepare trainees to work or own businesses in landscaping, construction, and other fields.
“Nothing combats employer discrimination against returning citizens than actually giving them a chance to prove themselves on the job,” said Terrell Bagby, Interim Director of RISE. “In order to reduce our prison population and save taxpayers millions, we need to ensure former offenders have meaningful opportunities to become productive members of their communities. That we are also creating more green jobs, helping minority-owned local businesses grow, and ensuring more vacant lots are maintained makes the Philadelphia LandCare Reentry Initiative one of the most innovative anti-recidivism programs in the nation.”
View video and photos of the press conference below:
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From CBS Philly.