A county-sponsored job fair for ex-convicts on Thursday drew more than 300 hopeful applicants ready to meet about 30 prospective employers.
"Every adult needs to have a job in order to be self-sufficient," said Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson, whose office organized the event. "But in addition to that, it's good for the economy, it's good for the county, it's good for the community. So it serves all of us well."
Applicants, the majority of them professionally dressed and some in suits and ties, lined up with resumes in hand at the booths of participating companies, including Chipotle Mexican Grill, Ikea, Summit Steel Works, Target, UPS and the Radisson hotel chain. Local labor unions also interviewed applicants, including the automotive repair trades, the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Sheet Metal Workers Local 104. The fair was held at 555 Marshall St., near the San Mateo County Hall of Justice & Records in Redwood City.
Jennie Trevino, an executive team leader at the Target in San Mateo, said the company was taking applications for short-term holiday work that could turn into something longer.
"It's a great opportunity for us to not only help the community but ensure our stores are staffed for the seasonal period," Trevino said. "Assuming their performance is good, we also have opportunities to continue their employment."
Burlingame resident Jeff Alameda, 48, who said he's held jobs as a tile worker and as printing pressman for years only to lose them during drug-related stints in jail, called the fair "awesome." Alameda said he's been off drugs and in a rehab program for nearly a year now.
"Looking for a job in the past has been real hard," Alameda said. "As soon as they read your application they pretty much run away, but this gives me a lot of hope."
This is the first time San Mateo County has sponsored a job fair for ex-convicts; the event was open only to county residents with non-violent, non-sexual and minor convictions.
When seeking employers for the fair, county officials touted the incentives provided to companies that hire former offenders, said Charisse Ma Lebron-Cannon, Jacobs Gibson's chief legislative aide.
"We made them see how it was mutually beneficial," she said.
Employers can receive a federal tax credit of up to $2,400 for each ex-felon hired as well free federal bonding to indemnify them in case of thefts.
Through a state grant program, the county also offered employers a 50 percent wage reimbursement for on-the-job training, according to information provided to companies.