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‘Smash through the stigma’: Ontario funding program to find jobs for people with criminal records

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April 26, 2023
By Talent Canada

Photo: Getty Images

The Ontario government is spending $12 million to help people leaving jail, or with prior criminal records, to find jobs.

The money is being spent on nine projects designed to help up to 2,000 people find “meaningful work with local businesses,” the province said. The idea is to help them create connections and a sense of belonging in their communities.

More than one million people in Ontario have a criminal record, which can decrease the chances of a second interview by 50 per cent and drastically increases their chance of long-term poverty, it said.  Stable employment has been shown to help address the root causes of crime and reduce the likelihood of someone re-offending.

“Across Ontario, tens of thousands of people have paid their dues and just want to roll up their sleeves and give back,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. “I urge business leaders to join us as we smash through the stigma of a criminal record.”


Preparing jobseekers

Led by various organizations across multiple sectors, the programs are designed to prepare jobseekers for careers in construction, manufacturing, hospitality, food and beverage processing, and other industries.

They will provide a range of employment and training needs through apprenticeship and technical training, on-the-job learning, and improving job readiness and interview skills. The projects include wrap-around support like mentorship, job placement, and mental health resources to ensure a smooth transition to the job market.

“We believe in second chances and in the inherent potential of each person,” said Michael Kerzner, Solicitor General. “Building a strong Ontario means that no one gets left behind, including those with previous criminal records. By connecting those with criminal records to skills training, we are creating brighter futures and better tomorrows.”

Where the money is going

The funding recipients include:

Building Up

  • Building Up is receiving $593,956 for a holistic project aimed at improving job retention and career progression for individuals who face significant barriers to employment and that have completed their pre-apprenticeship program.
  • This project will help 200 people work in the skilled trades in communities in the Toronto area.

Calibre Recruitment Inc.

  • Calibre Recruitment Inc. is receiving $590,365 for a project that aims to reduce the barriers that people with previous interactions with the criminal justice system face when trying to access employment, while also helping local employers address critical labour shortages.
  • The program is designed to give individuals the skills training, job coaching, and wrap-around supports required to access and transition into stable employment opportunities.
  • This project will help 30 people access employment in sectors including food and beverage processing, hospitality, and manufacturing in communities in London and the surrounding area.

Community Justice Initiatives of Waterloo Region

  • Community Justice Initiatives of Waterloo Region is receiving $119,552 for a project that will work with people who have lived experience of incarceration or criminalization and local business leaders to co-design an approach to training and employment that supports both the needs of the employer, along with the needs of program participants.
  • This project will help 96 people work in various sectors in the Kitchener Area.

Fernie Youth Services

  • Fernie Youth Services is receiving $514,459 for a project focusing on removing barriers in education and skills training opportunities for justice-involved and racialized youth by delivering new and innovative approaches to skills training. This includes providing tools, equipment, and wrap-around supports to jobseekers, such as mentorship, job placement and coaching, mental health supports, educational supports, career and learning plans, and social supports, such as housing and medical care.
  • This project will help 25 people work in various sectors in communities in the Toronto Area.

Hammer Heads Program

  • Hammer Heads Program is receiving $204,850 to support a project aimed at improving job retention and career progression for apprentices in their program, by guiding them through the first years of their employment with regular follow-ups in the field to ensure sustainability and long-term success.
  • This project will help 200 people work in the skilled trades in communities in the Toronto area.

Prison Fellowship Canada

  • Prison Fellowship Canada is receiving $500,000 for a comprehensive project that will provide in-class and on-the-job training support for apprentices, including tutoring, exam preparation, mentorship, and wrap-around supports that promote apprentice progression and obtaining the highest level of certification possible in a particular trade. It will also provide on-the-job supports to help journeypersons provide the training that apprentices need to successfully progress through their program.
  • This project will help 100 people work in the skilled trades in communities in Mississauga.


  • SPOT App is receiving $1.64 million for a specialized program that will provide jobseekers from the second chances population with job opportunities and training through a new mobile job placement app. They will also work with employers to reduce stigma and promote the benefits of giving people with prior involvement in the criminal justice system a second chance.
  • This project will help 260 people work in a range of sectors in communities in the Toronto area.

Scale Hospitality

  • Scale Hospitality is receiving $6 million to support an industry-led initiative aimed at supporting growth in the hospitality sector through various training opportunities. These include initiatives such as micro-credential training programs and increasing accessibility for those who face barriers to employment through community partnerships.
  • This project will help 1,205 people work in hospitality in communities in the Toronto area.

The Oaks Revitalization Association

  • The Oaks Revitalization Association is receiving $1.94 million for a project that will support young offenders by training them as apprentices and helping them to transition into employment in the Skilled Trade industry.
  • The Skilled Trade Development program provides access to the Skilled Trade labour market and rehabilitates and reintegrates young offenders back into society. The mentorship program will provide core life skills, mental health support, reintegration, anti gangs/crime, and support dealing with on-the-job challenges. Clients will be mentored and placed into apprenticeships within the skilled trades industry.
  • Breaking the cycle of recidivism will have meaningful change for marginalized communities. The Oaks will be working with Toronto Police Service, Correctional Services, Toronto Focus Tables, Community Agencies, and DAP (Direct Accountability Program).
  • This project will help 16 people work in communities in Central Toronto in the first cohort.

“Fernie Youth Services is ecstatic to have received a Skills Development Fund grant to expand the Fernie Works Employment Program with the confidence of empowering young racialized and justice-involved job-seekers facing barriers to meaningful employment,” said  Madison Perdue, resource development co-ordinator, Fernie Youth Services.

“Fernie Works provides second chances to youth in conflict with the law to guide them in career planning, education, and real-world job placements. The holistic program, rooted in Fernie Youth Services’ commitment to Caring Beyond Reason and in partnership with the Skills Development Fund will create a win-win-win for youth, employers, and Ontario’s economy.”

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