Everywhere I go, I still keep hearing about how difficult it is for door and window manufacturers to find and keep good hires for their manufacturing operations.

“We will hire a hundred people to kick off the busy season and by the end of the month, we have only 20 remaining. Some quit the very first day; some collect their first check and just don’t come back.” Statements like this are heard all too frequently as door and window fabricators continue to struggle with the supply of interested and skilled labor. “People just don’t want to work anymore,” is an expression this author hears all too often.

Well, last night I got a refreshing call from a man involved in helping train extremely interested candidates for the glass industry as well as for other industries. I almost didn’t answer my phone because I was watching my beloved Cleveland Cavs vs. the Toronto Raptors. Since the Cavs were ahead by 30, I decided it was safe to disengage. Woah – it was after 9 PM and it was a D.C. number, so this had me wondering…”was it the Trump or the Hillary campaign asking for a donation?” After quite a few rings, I decided to take a chance, and I am glad I did.

On the other end of the line was a man named Graham McLaughlin. He was calling me to ask about a pre-owned heated roller press that I have for sale. “Okay, are you a glass fabrication company?” I asked.

What I found out next was so interesting and refreshing that I actually tuned out my beloved Cavs and re-engaged with McLaughlin. He’s chairman of the board of an organization called Changing Perceptions, located in Washington, D.C. This non-profit organization provides life skills and on-the-job training to people who have just been released from prison and want a second chance. Now I have a few friends myself who have found themselves on the wrong side of a prison gate, and I can attest that it is extremely difficult for these people once they are released from prison to get a job or even rent an apartment. “You must pass a background check” is a blanket statement that most of them hear after filling out an application, and most times, the employer or landlord will not take the time or accept the risk of listening to an individual’s circumstances and give them a chance. In many cases it is just corporate policy to reject any person with a felony regardless of what the individual circumstances or current state of affairs may be.

Changing Perceptions was founded by Will Avila. Avila, an ex-offender himself, is the owner of a company called Clean Decisions, which he started in 2014, that gives ex-offenders job training and employs them to clean industrial kitchens after hours in the D.C. area. After seeing how grateful and hard-working these people have become, Avila became passionate about spreading this type of on-the-job training and developing employment opportunities to other industries, so he then founded Changing Perceptions.

McLaughlin got my name from Malcolm Harris, the owner of a glass repair and replacement business called AMPM Glass LLC, and McLaughlin wanted to know everything about the heated roller press and Duraseal insulated glass fabrication process that Harris would be teaching ex-offenders to operate.

Now, AM PM GLASS LLC specializes in window glass replacement, replacement window installation, screens, sliding glass doors, patio doors, and wall mirror for residential, commercial and  industrial needs. Harris tells me that he has partnered with McLaughlin to train and hire ex-offenders for work at AMPM and that so far, the program is working out splendidly. Harris says the people he has found through Changing Perceptions show up on time, are willing to stay late and are always eager to learn as much as possible.

So there you have it. Sometimes the people who are the most interested in hard work and new opportunities are the same people who society continually shuns. I for one believe such people deserve a second chance.

People like McLaughlin and Harris are all about Changing Perceptions. I cannot help but ponder about how we might develop more interested and engaged skilled workers nationwide if similar programs were to spring up to give these people a second chance.

For more information on Changing Perceptions, visit www.changingdcperceptions.org, and for a great background article on Will Avila, check out this Washington Post article about Clean Decisions.

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