Jobs program looking to help former inmates get on the right track

Crystal Cranmore Image
Thursday, December 21, 2023
Center for Employment Opportunities opens their doors for formerly incarcerated people
Crystal Cranmore has the latest details.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Yamirca Vazquez knows what it is like to be told no.

"Everyone will give you the job and the opportunity but once the background comes up, it's like 'okay, sorry,'" she says.

Vazquez spent about a year in prison - a story too painful to talk about. She says she continued to pay for her crime after she was released - that is until a parole officer told her about the Center for Employment Opportunities, or CEO.

"I learned how to advocate for others and for myself - that's when doors started opening with CEO," Vazquez said.

CEO is a national program that provides jobs to people previous incarcerated. After a three-day paid orientation, participants are offered employment at one of several transitional job sites in the city. While they are working, they are getting ongoing job and interview training in the career fields they really want to pursue.

"Our participants face barriers in getting union jobs," said CEO NYC Regional Director Cynthia Brackett.

CEO is making that easier for folks with their Pathways to Apprenticeship partnership - a pre-apprenticeship program that could lead to a lifelong career.

"They learn blueprint, site-safety OSHA, labor relations - what it's like to be on a construction site," said Gyasi Headen.

Headen says this year CEO NYC has a goal of enrolling 1,300 New Yorkers coming home.

"We will plan to make 700 job placements. 48 percent will make that 365 retention milestone," Headen adds.

While Vazquez did not choose the union track, she found her own path through CEO's Emerging Leaders program, shadowing various department managers throughout the organization. Through her work at CEO, she helps fight for policy changes that will positively impact people previously in the prison system.

She is taking her second chance at life - and paying it forward.

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