2018-05-17 / Editorial

Job fair to be held geared toward those in recovery

Legislative Lowdown
by Rep. Martin Grohman

As regular readers know, I have made it a priority to work with those in addiction recovery of all kinds. Because I have a background as an employer and many connections with other area employers, one of the things I have been most focused on is helping people in recovery find jobs. There are many pillars of recovery from addiction. Along with housing, health care and many other factors, a good job is definitely one of them.

However, many people who have battled with addiction have gaps in employment, and often, criminal records. Even after moving on from the disease of addiction, these burdens can make it very difficult to find a job. Slowly, employer attitudes around hiring those in recovery are changing, and there is an increasing awareness that people recover, and can make great employees. Having a job creates a sense of purpose and a way for a person in recovery to contribute positively to society and build self-esteem.

In a meeting at the offices of York County Sheriff Bill King together with staff from Enso Recovery (a Portland-based provider of addiction counseling and medication services) an idea was hatched – what if we did a job fair specifically for people in recovery? If we identify and invite area employers that are willing to look past those typical negative indicators and give somebody a chance, we can pair them with graduates from local programs run by proven providers like Enso and Biddeford’s own Groups/ Recover Together and Maine Behavioral Healthcare. While we cannot guarantee each applicant will be highly successful, we do believe that the applicants will be encouraged knowing that each employer is expecting each applicant to have recovered from addiction challenges, and we know that employers with open minds can find amazing future employees that will help them grow their business.

I have been doing this work on a one to one basis. I have learned some things along the way. For example, when I work with someone in recovery who is applying for a job, I always counsel them to disclose any criminal record. It is much better to be up front. Explain the circumstances and honestly represent how you have moved on from the situation. In fact, I even suggest that applicants order their own background check (typically about $40), bring it to the interview, and go over it. Of course, many in recovery do not have any kind of criminal record, but it’s also important to have a good resume and know how to present yourself in an interview. In fact, we’ll have free on-the spot resume development services at the job fair.

At the same time, there are things employers can do to run a more recovery friendly workplace, and common pitfalls to avoid. A workshop at the close of the job fair will help employers compare notes and become more effective in growing their workforce by hiring the many high potential people in recovery. What we have in mind is careers, not just jobs, so getting off to a good start is critical.

I wish to thank in advance our many partners in organizing this event, most notably Doug Sanford and the Pepperell Mill Campus, who are generously providing the event space for free. The University of New England/Coastal Healthy Communities Coalition is providing logistical and registration support. Engine, a Biddeford-based arts and education nonprofit, is providing graphic design help. Without these three partners, we would not able to pull off this event. The schedule for the day is as follows:

7 to 9 a.m.: Vendor Setup and live radio from WGAN

8 to 10 a.m.: Free/discounted makeovers and haircuts at Tulu Salon

9 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Job fair in Pepperell Mill Campus Event Center in Biddeford.

1 to 3 p.m.: Employer workshop on becoming a recovery-friendly workplace

Everyone is welcome. Attendance is free for job-seekers as well as friends and family, but registration is strongly encouraged. Sponsorship and tabling opportunities are available for employers and nonprofits at a small fee. Visit facebook.com/repgrohman to learn more and to register, and feel free to contact me at martin.grohman@legislature. maine.gov with questions.

Solving the opioid crisis will not be simple. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s so complex, with problems so intertwined, that it can only be solved with an all-out effort by health care, criminal justice and human services agencies working together. I hope the Recovery Workforce Job Fair on Thursday, June 7 is one step in the right direction.

Rep. Martin Grohman of Biddeford is an Independent State Representative and candidate for US Congress serving his second term in the Maine Legislature and is a member of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Outside the legislature, he hosts a podcast for Maine entrepreneurs called ‘The Grow Maine Show’ – available on Apple Podcasts – and is chair of the Biddeford Solid Waste & Recycling Commission. Sign up for legislative updates at www.growmaine.com or at facebook.com/repgrohman.

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