Criminal Justice

Second chance hiring gives manufacturing industry, businesses a needed boost

May 26, 2022

For Franklin Comer, his first job was more than your ordinary professional milestone. It gave him a chance to show that he’s a changed man.  

At the age of 56, after serving 33 years in prison for aggravated robbery and murder, Comer started working his first job at Nehemiah Manufacturing in Cincinnati. 

“Throughout the whole incarceration, one of the first things that was most important to me, I had to take an inventory of self … and identify the issues that sent me to prison and allowed me to make the decisions that led me to commit a crime,” Comer told CNBC. “I knew I made a mistake. And so, when I went to prison, I tried to redeem myself into becoming a better person.”  

Today, CNBC reports, Nehemiah Manufacturng is a place where he is treated with dignity and respect for who he is today — not what he did in the past. 

“You know, it took me a while,” he said. “I accomplished it.” 

Comer is not unique, either. At Nehemiah Manufacturing, 80% of employees are second chance hires and their program for hiring individuals who have a criminal record serves as a model for other companies looking to expand the scope of their hiring practices. 

Second chance hiring helps with worker shortages 

It’s projected that 2.1 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled by 2030. That could amount to as much as $1 trillion in lost gross domestic product by 2030, according to a study from The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte. 

The Manufacturing Institute (MI), with funding from Stand Together Trust (STT), is responding to this worker shortage in the manufacturing industry by promoting second chance hiring.  

Now entering year two of partnership, MI provides resources and expertise for employers on second chance hiring as a key solution to address the skills gap in manufacturing. These include roundtable discussions, webinars, executive leadership events, pilot programs, and original research tailored for the manufacturing industry.  

And in a time of drastic labor shortages, demand for these resources is through the roof. In its first year, more than 500 employers participated in MI events and made use of their resources, and many  have reached out for more information that can help their specific company. 

Additionally, MI created two pilot programs for second chance hiring — one with Union Pacific and one with employers in San Antonio. Both were launched at the end of 2021.  

“Since beginning this work, we have had hundreds of manufacturers participate to learn more about our second chance hiring initiative,” Carolyn Lee, President of the Manufacturing Institute said. “Manufacturers in the San Antonio area have embraced and leveraged our resources to recruit more companies into the pilot and teach manufacturers about the keys to success to recruiting and retaining second chance hires.” 

There’s a lot of promise of innovation and growth that will come from these sorts of partnerships centered around second chance hiring — not just for the manufacturing industry but for all businesses.  

Second chance hiring strengthens business and communities 

One in three working-age Americans have a criminal record. Many people who have a criminal record are underemployed or have insecure jobs. 

However, companies are increasingly open to second chance hiring. According to research from Getting Talent Back to Work, funded in part by STT, 85% of human resources professionals and 81% of business leaders report that people with criminal records perform the same or better than employees without criminal records.  

Turnover rates among second chance hires are lower, too. That translates into significant savings on hiring and training costs.   

And because of the workplace culture shifts that often accompany second chance hiring, loyalty among all employees increases, strengthening the company overall. 

Simply put, second chance hiring is good for individuals, good for businesses, and good for society.  

“If we truly want to reduce recidivism and increase public safety, all while empowering those returning to our communities to contribute at their fullest potential, we need to expand second chance hiring opportunities,” said STT Executive Director Derek Johnson, at the announcement of the partnership with The Manufacturing Institute in 2021. “Businesses are leading the way on this important aspect of criminal justice reform, especially those in the manufacturing industry. STT is proud to join this partnership to scale that impact and expand second chance hiring across more employers.” 

Learn more about the Manufacturing Institute’s second chance hiring efforts and consider if their work could support a company in your community. Visit