Susan Trieschmann was sick of hearing the same story.The article notes that the same government that would like to fund jobs programs impedes labor force participation.
Kid grows up in a dangerous household. Kid commits a crime. Kid says he never would have done it if he had a job.
What Trieschmann heard day after day in meetings of formerly incarcerated youth in Evanston spurred her to act. With the skills she learned starting her own catering business, she opened Curt’s Cafe, which teaches life skills through restaurant work and counseling to kids who have been in and out of the criminal-justice system.
The results have been astounding. In her program, Trieschmann says only 2 percent of the more than 150 participants have been back behind bars, compared with a nearly 60 percent rate of return generally for juveniles who have gone through the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.
One major barrier to steady employment for those with criminal records? Occupational licenses, which cover jobs from barber, to cosmetologist, to funeral director, to architect. In fact, nearly 25 percent of Illinois’ workforce requires government permission to work. A youthful mistake could lead to months or years of waiting for permission to work, or even a lifetime ban, for a wide swath of jobs that can provide a path to self-sufficiency in adulthood.Occupational licenses, otherwise known as cartel enforcement devices, have come under fire from policy writers of the right, particularly among the libertarians, and in some precincts of the left. The Washington Monthly used to be particularly skeptical.
It’s encouraging then that the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced April 11 that ex-offenders who have completed training in barbering and cosmetology while incarcerated will be able to apply for a license to work before their release from prison. Instead of waiting months to get their licenses after release, this change will allow more former offenders to find work as soon as they complete their sentences.
A rollback of occupational licensing in the right places well might help the prospects of young people rendered unemployable by government schools and the minimum wage. There is still work to do.