Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday May 22nd 2019


Criminal Record? Jobs Can Be Found

By Duwayne Escobedo

If you have a criminal record, it can be hard to find a company that will give you the chance to do an honest day’s work.

But at CareerSource Escarosa, Sheila Savage has found jobs within 90 days for more than half of her clients who are ex-offenders. Her success has earned her celebrity status locally and across the state. Other agencies come to Savage to find out how the Ex-Offender Career Advisor does it.

“They’re looking to do something similar,” said Katherine Karshna, Escarosa’s Chief Operating Officer. “But they don’t have Sheila and they can’t have her.”

Part of her successful job placement is simply due to her dedication to helping former prisoners get their lives back on track.

CareerSource Escarosa exists to find employment for job seekers from ex-offenders and welfare recipients to veterans and homemakers. In 2008 at the height of the recession, Escarosa had about 140,000 visitors a year. Now with an improving local economy, the agency serves about half that number.

CareerSource Escarosa Executive Director Cliff Krut enjoys switching from attracting companies to move to the area to ensuring there are plenty of talented workers for companies to hire.

“I’ve gone from the business attraction side to workforce development,” Krut said. “Talent is what drives economic development these days.”

Although anyone can take advantage of Escarosa’s services, Krut admits the ex-offender program has a “very, very high success rate. We help them put their best foot forward.”

Savage is more modest about her work with ex-offenders. She said a key is putting together what she calls a “Rehabilitation Portfolio.” This shows employers what former prisoners have done to rehabilitate themselves, such as getting a GED or college degree or doing volunteer work. It also includes their job experience.

“Part of the individualized assessment is what are they doing to rehabilitate themselves,” Savage said. “Most people are totally clueless about this. The portfolio has created opportunities for them to get paid more than other applicants.”

But employers appreciate Savage gathering all the documents, including birth certificates, driver’s licenses and social security cards, whether the job is in retail, an office, construction, a warehouse or other areas that span the gamut.

Savage’s work also involves helping ex-offenders project a professional appearance to potential employers.

She has placed ex-offenders in jobs ranging from $14 an hour at Home Depot to $17 an hour at Aerotek. Savage admits the biggest compliment she receives is cards from her clients thanking her for her time and commitment.

Krut said all the compliments Savage gets are well deserved. He points out that before enjoying the program’s benefits, ex-offenders must attend an orientation.

“She does a good job at that,” Krut said. “It’s one of our best practice areas.”