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Racine Vocational Ministry placed 5,000 participant into a job

The Journal Times - 8/31/2023

Aug. 30—RACINE — Racine Vocational Ministries celebrated placing 5,000 people who were incarcerated or struggling with unemployment into the workforce or education in May.

RVM was started by Jim Schatzman in 2002, and has placed 5,048 people into jobs as of August. In 2022, RVM placed 220 people into schools or jobs, and 17 were promoted to a higher position within the first year of employment.

RVM has two programs.

The Second Chance program is open people who were formerly incarcerated and reentering into the community, and the Jobs program is open to anyone struggling with unemployment or underemployment.

Michael Wright was a part of the Second Chance program and was the 5,000th placement across RVM.

Wright said he was in and out of prison for 33 years and most recently was released in April 2021. Wright said he went to RVM in May 2021, and it helped point him in the right direction.

"I always had a goal, but sometimes things get sidetracked," Wright said. "When I come into RVM, I see the sayings on the walls and that little thing helps me. I can smell the fear and I can feel it, but I have the courage to move forward."

Since participating in the Second Chance program at RVM, Wright said he has become sober, started working as an injection molder, and acquired a house and car.

Wright is also more involved at his church and has been "instrumental" in trying to get a 12-step recovery program started there, according to his case manager, Hope Wesley-Early.

Both programs have three parts: prepare, plan and proceed. In the first step, participants meet with a case worker to develop a plan.

"For the Second Chance program, we want our gentlemen and ladies to understand that you may be job-need but not job-ready, especially if there are substance use issues in the picture," Wesley-Early said. "We want to make sure that piece is stable first."

RVM also uses the financial empowerment center to help with budgeting and credit checking for the participants, Wesley-Early said. Participants can also develop a plan with their case worker to develop soft skills, get a GED or other degree or go through certain trainings.

In the final step of the program, participants are hired into jobs or placed into schools. Job counselors from RVM help set up interviews for participants with local businesses and coach the participants for interviews.

"It feels good to have some responsibility," Wright said. "That's what I look forward to every day."

Schatzman said the program often takes longer than a normal job placement company because they are focused on making sure their participants can be successful.

"That frustrates some people," Schatzman said. "But the folks who hang in there, their success rates are way above the people who contract agencies because they've had that foundational training before they went into the job."

In 2022, RVM's recidivism rate, or rate of people who reoffended, was 1% for one year, 4% for two years and 8% for three years, Schatzman said.

The state average recidivism rate from 2016 to 2018 was 15.2% for one year, 26.1% for two years and 33.3% for three years, according to a Wisconsin Department of Corrections study.

"We help out folks to get fully engaged in their own lives with stable housing and transportation. If that happens, they are almost surely going to be hired because there's so much need for workers right now," Schatzman said. "It's been a really different place for RVM. For most of our years, we really had to work hard and hustle to find employment opportunities, but they're very plentiful right now."


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