Local program helps ex-cons find gainful employment

Posted at 8:59 PM, Jun 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-02 12:36:48-04

Many Wisconsin employers cannot find enough skilled workers, but a program run by Rescare Workforce Services is helping solve the problem. 

One class helped a Milwaukee man find his way after a decade in prison.

40-year-old Jamie De Jesus says learning how to operate a CNC machine put him online for a new career.

"When I first got here I was being released from incarceration and I needed a skill set so I could get sustainable wages and not go back to prison," said De Jesus.

He spent ten years in prison and was determined to do better. 

Today, he's an instructor at the Innovative Educational Solutions Institut, teaching entry level machining.

"I was in the street life I did a lot of bad things in my life, I was selling dope, you know just bad things that led me to being in prison," he said. 

De Jesus gets emotional thinking about what he missed while serving time.

"My daughter is 18 my son is 17--being out of their life for about 14 years was really the catalyst for getting me to want to change," he said. 

De Jesus teaches clients from the Wisconsin Foodshare Education and Training Program, it's known as FSET. Students learn skills that could land them a good paying job.

"When I helped my students here and I see that they learned something new it's like a connection to my kids because its something I want to do with them," he said. 

De Jesus was a student in the same class about a year ago. He was known as a hard worker who came early and stayed late. 

The class is voluntary. F-Set Project Director Steven Reinhold says. 

"If you're looking for a job, if you want to get into the job market and you want to upskill, or if your looking increase your education level...this program can help you do that," Reinhold said. 

And De Jesus wants others to know that even after prison, we all hold the template to mold a better life. 

"For each Jamie that's successful, It creates stronger people, stronger families stronger neighborhoods through employment," he said. 

"I'm walking on cloud nine every day that I wake up. Every day I wake up I come into work, this is my safe place. Not just for me but for others," he also said. 

Rescare Workforce Services reports that since 2015 more than 21,000 people in Southeastern Wisconsin found jobs through the FSET program.