Uplifting and supporting workforce re-entry and career growth for justice-impacted individuals

Dr. Genevieve Rimer is passionate about working with employers and other workforce stakeholders across the country to help them understand the unique skills and talent that justice-impacted individuals bring to the workforce. Rimer’s message and passion comes from the first-hand experience of being formerly incarcerated herself.

“I use my personal journey of struggle—and also triumph—to help shift perceptions and encourage an inclusive narrative for employers to widen their talent practices to hire people like me,” says Rimer. “Justice-impacted people are excited to work and just need to be given the opportunity. Evidence shows we work hard, we're dependable, and we're reliable. We help build company culture, and we become really valuable assets.”

Rimer is now the senior director of Inclusive Hiring at the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) where she equips employers with the tools, they need to transform their hiring practices to lead with empathy and compassion.

“It is incredibly important that our Inclusive Hiring department, focused on unlocking job opportunities, walks in lockstep with our advanced training program for formerly incarcerated individuals. It is funding from Truist Foundation that has allowed this to happen,” says Rimer.

Advancing economic and social mobility for those formerly incarcerated

CEO is the nation’s largest provider of comprehensive employment services to people returning from jail or prison. In early 2023, CEO announced a $1 million grant from Truist Foundation, dedicated to supporting career advancement and creating economic mobility pathways. Over time, the grant will allow for thousands of justice-impacted people to be connected to advanced training opportunities that will ultimately lead to higher-wage employment.

The funding from Truist Foundation has allowed CEO to elevate their offerings and create more structured programs and services for their participants. The grant has provided critical support to the organization to build out four additional learning pathways:

  • Industry-recognized information technology (IT) credentials to unlock well-paid tech jobs
  • Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) certifications to secure employment within the transportation industry
  • Foundational digital literacy to get essential skills needed in today’s workforce
  • CEO’s Emerging Leaders Program, an immersive apprenticeship that places participants on a team at CEO to further prepare them for employment in their training areas

Comprehensive support that leads to impact

In addition to these new programs and certificates, CEO supplements their curriculum with wraparound support services. The impact of these services extends the organization’s abilities beyond its previous remit. Some of the most requested services by program participants include educational support, housing, transportation, childcare, clothing supplies, and physical and mental health services. Often, this kind of wraparound support gives participants the space to fully entrench themselves in their career journeys and to create structured, sustainable and positive long-term habits for them and their families. 

According to Patience Lewis-Walker, deputy executive director at CEO, these new programs and services have advanced the overall impact of the organization by allowing participants to truly see themselves on a different trajectory and by underscoring the impact they can have when equipped with the resources they need to be successful.

Skills that serve

While trainings and certifications are critical to gaining employment, it is often the “soft” or less tangible skills that ensure employees both maintain and grow in their roles. These can include skills that many people inherently take for granted, such as calling a manager to let them know when you are running late or following up to respond to an email.

Rimer and the CEO team describe the process of teaching these soft skills as making participants Job-Start Ready.

“We're very intentional about spending a lot of time with our participants, helping them build their soft skills, honing in on what it means to clearly communicate, and more,” says Rimer.

Leading with empathy

Rimer’s Inclusive Hiring creates toolkits that are publicly available for employers, including hiring guides for employers of CEO’s advanced training program graduates.

When working with a new employer, Rimer starts by dissecting the criminal-legal system with them and addressing the nuances that lead to individuals becoming incarcerated. She teaches employers to use language that is person-centered, signaling to those with past convictions that they are welcome to apply and that the organization values and fosters a culture that is grounded in understanding and psychological safety.

Deepening impact beyond employment

In partnership with Truist Foundation, CEO is pushing further to pursue new goals. The team is deepening its impact and teaching its participants to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining for the long haul, creating new pathways to economic mobility for themselves and their families.

“We show up every single day for the people we serve,” says Rimer. “It's not me, and it's not our executive team – it’s the people who are freshly home from incarceration who are most important to our organization. They walk in our doors looking for opportunity and we do our part to make it possible for them.”

About Truist Foundation

The Truist Foundation is committed to Truist Financial Corporation’s (NYSE: TFC) purpose to inspire and build better lives and communities. Established in 2020, the foundation makes strategic investments in nonprofit organizations to help ensure the communities it serves have more opportunities for a better quality of life. The Truist Foundation’s grants and activities focus on leadership development, economic mobility, thriving communities and educational equity.