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Second chance job fair provides hope

Organizers of an upcoming job fair hope to open the doors to gainful employment for residents of Surry County who may have found getting a job difficult due to substance use disorder or recent incarceration.

Seeking to change outcomes, the Surry County Recovery Friendly Workplace Program is sponsoring a Second Chance Job Fair April 27, from 1:30 – 4:00 p.m. at the Surry County Resource Center, at 1218 State Street in Mount Airy.

Emily Venable-Schiff, the Recovery to Work business advisor for Surry County, said the job fair has been designed to connect individuals who are in treatment, recovery, or find themselves involved with the justice system with businesses that are willing to give them an opportunity at employment.

Getting out of jail and going back to the same environment, same people, and same situations will often yield the same outcomes, studies have shown. So the program objective is to support successful reintegration in the community and reduce recidivism by breaking cycles that are often found including unemployment, homelessness, and food insecurity.

The program, facilitated by the Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery, reported in the first four months starting last August that 33 businesses signed up to participate in the program.

Recent placements included Wayne Farms, Renfro Brands, NorPak, Hampton Inn, New River Tire, Brintle’s Truck Stop, and six placements in local restaurants.

“Partnering through Emily with the Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery Team on this important community project has been very rewarding for the Nester Hosiery team in Mount Airy,” Human Resources Manager Frankie Vernon said.

The county developed the Recovery Friendly Workplace Program as part of a plan to treat substance use disorders by building what organizers term a recovery-oriented system of care. This system includes the development of employment networks and support mechanisms as part of an integrated approach that will help the community improve outcomes and enhance both community and economic development.

Business supporters also include Coram Construction, NCFI, Advanced Electronic Services, Leonard Buildings, Applied Polymerics, Acme Stone, Bryson Inn, Interlam, Hicks Water Stoves, Insteel Industries, and Pro Technologies.

“Working with SCOSAR and supporting their efforts has been rewarding,” Lenise Lynch, general manager of Hampton Inn in Mount Airy, said. “Being able to help our community live a happier and healthier life, giving people another chance to be a successful citizen, makes it all worth it. We understand that we are blessed so that we can be a blessing to others.”

According to the Office of Substance Abuse Recovery, “One in every 12 workers in the United States manages an untreated substance use disorder. Such statistics indicate that employers are already absorbing the additional costs of employees who need better recovery support. There is a tremendous opportunity to reduce costs and improve the overall health of the community.”

“An employee in sustained recovery saves their employer an average of $8,500 in associated cost including reducing rates of turnover, absenteeism, and improved job performance,” the agency said.

Officials with Surry County and the Office of Substance Abuse Recovery say they are dedicated to building a continuum of care that eliminates impediments for residents who seek treatment and recovery from substance use disorder.

The recovery-oriented system of care the county is employing is a person-centered approach that builds on the strengths and resilience of individuals to achieve abstinence and improved health, wellness, and quality of life for those with or at risk of alcohol and drug problems. Officials say that means efforts aimed at helping the person recover, as one might from an illness, rather than simply going through the court system and being jailed with no help in recovery.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse has defined recovery as “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

Surry County businesses who are participating in the Recovery Friendly Workplace program are saying that they want to empower these people to get back to being in better control of their day-to-day life, and therefore their future.

“Employment can be a major part of a successful recovery journey and employers can have an enormous impact on the health or an employee in recovery,” officials with the Office of Substance Abuse Recovery said. “Providing opportunities for employment and access to support during recovery dramatically increases the odds of success.”

It is a great time to be looking for a job according to Crystal Morphis of Creative EDC in Elkin, who made an economic outlook presentation to the county commissioners. She reported the market favors those seeking employment.

Around the time of the recession in 2008 there were approximately six people applying for every job and now that number is below one applicant per job, she said. A slowing national birth rate, increasing rates of retirement from the Baby Boomers, and a decreasing rate of participation in the labor force mean there are jobs to be had that employers are having trouble filling.

In a labor market that needs warm bodies as applications have slowed to a trickle in many industries, it appears to make business sense to many local companies to be a part of a Recovery Friendly Workplace program that looks to help current employees in need of support but also to reopen the doors of employment to those seeking to improve their situation.

For more information on the job fair, or the Recovery Friendly Workplace Program, contact Emily Venable-Schiff at 336-374-9145.



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