Mass incarceration in the U.S. affects justice-impacted individuals far beyond their time served. One important and overlooked issue is workforce re-entry, as formerly incarcerated individuals are five times as likely to be unemployed than other job seekers due to stigma and legal barriers. At the same time, the U.S. currently has more job openings than job seekers, and skilled workers in fields like engineering are in high demand.
There are solutions to these challenges. Next Chapter—the Slack-incubated software engineering apprenticeship program for returning persons—has placed nearly 50 people in full-time, high-skilled engineering jobs at 14 different companies, including Slack, Zoom and PayPal. There is an untapped opportunity to serve more justice-impacted individuals looking for a fair chance at employment, as well as companies looking for engineering talent.
That’s why today we’re excited to announce that Slack’s parent company, Salesforce, is making a $2.5 million investment in Next Chapter to advance pathways for justice-impacted individuals to obtain gainful employment in the technology sector. The investment is a part of a larger $5 million package of grants announced today by Salesforce to support inclusive workforce development worldwide.
Expanding Next Chapter’s impact with Salesforce and Slack
Salesforce’s investment—its biggest workforce development fund investment to date—will enable Next Chapter to build on its momentum and advance its goals to:
- Create high-wage employment pathways for re-entering individuals
- Establish corporate partnerships and employee engagement initiatives to normalize fair chance hiring
- Increase the quality of and access to training programs for current and formerly incarcerated individuals
Founded in 2018 and incubated at Slack, Next Chapter provides apprentices with technical training, professional mentorship, and other support to help them build careers in the tech sector, while matching hiring partner companies with talented, driven engineers.
The impact is clear: 100% of Next Chapter apprentices have graduated from the program into full-time engineering roles at leading tech companies. Members of early cohorts have continued to advance in their careers, earning promotions to managerial and senior managerial roles on their teams.
“Next Chapter has given me the opportunity to build a future I look forward to, where I have financial freedom doing work I am truly passionate about,” says Jess Bonanno, a former Next Chapter apprentice who now works full-time at Slack as a software engineer. “I’ve found a support network of people who I can lean on through this journey, as well as a chance to inspire others to change their lives. Without opportunities like these, so many brilliant minds will never find their potential and get to leave their mark on the world.”
Building career pathways for justice-impacted individuals
Driving change requires more than stand-alone commitments from companies to hire justice-impacted individuals; it requires the collaboration of various community groups with distinct perspectives and expertise to help ignite a national mindset shift.
To help combat these systemic issues, Slack is collaborating with the Aspen Institute on Rework Reentry, a joint initiative to help scale Next Chapter to additional companies across the U.S. As a part of this initiative, in September Slack and the Aspen Institute released an in-depth playbook to provide a blueprint for other companies to follow, to train, hire and support justice-impacted individuals as software engineers.
There is a long way to go to make long-term, systemic change. We encourage other companies to follow our blueprint for action to create career pathways for returning persons.
To learn more about Next Chapter, please visit nextchapterproject.org. For more information on Salesforce’s investment, please visit salesforce.com. If you are interested in bringing Next Chapter to your organization, or would like to apply for an apprenticeship, please contact Next Chapter at email@example.com or Slack for Good at firstname.lastname@example.org.