Job Coaching and Incentives : Center for Employment Opportunities

Program/Practice Name: Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO)

Agency Name: Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), 501(c)3

Contact Information:

50 Broadway, 18 Fl
New York, NY 10004
Phone: 212-422-4430
Fax: 212-248-4432

Type of Program/Practice: The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) is dedicated to providing immediate, effective and comprehensive employment services to men and women with recent criminal convictions. Our highly structured and tightly supervised programs help participants regain the skills and confidence needed for a successful transition to a stable, productive life.

Background/Program History: Created as an innovative demonstration project by the Vera Institute of Justice in the late 1970s, CEO has been an independent nonprofit corporation since 1996.

Program/Practice Description: The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) program model includes immediate time–limited transitional work and developing full time employment. Through transitional work, clients are able to work and receive pay at the end of each workday. The transitional jobs also give clients an opportunity to practice the behaviors they learned in the classroom (ability to be on time, communicate, take direction, and be productive) and to demonstrate their job readiness when they secure full time employment.

CEO has developed a series of innovative practices and programs for hard–to–employ individuals and their employers. CEO's initial screening practice and orientation is an in–depth orientation for new enrollees, during which program objectives, expectations, and benefits are discussed with participants. CEO provides an intensive four–day job readiness workshops, facilitated by experienced Life Skills Instructors to teach participants valuable skills including resume writing techniques, job–searching skills, personal presentation, basics of communication, how to discuss conviction and criminal history on an interview, and appropriate workplace behavior.

Upon completion of these workshops, participants are ready to graduate and begin working on CEO's transitional work sites: short–term, minimum wage employment for participants. CEO's job development component works with clients to assess their vocational potential and help them strategically play an integral part in the job search process by contacting employers and scheduling interviews. Job Coaches and Job Developers conduct in–depth vocational aptitude tests for current job openings and match participant skills to employer generated opportunities.

Although employment is CEO's major concern, CEO has been able to also provide a comprehensive list of re–entry services.

Single Stop: Single Stop helps individuals navigate the public benefits system and access other important services that can break down barriers to employment. Single Stop can provide assistance with putting food on the table, obtaining medical insurance, planning a financially stable future for families, and accessing legal services.

Parents: CEO offers workshops and group support for parents in the CEO program. All programs are intended to help parents provide the financial and emotional support their children need. The programs help parents navigate the child support system, re–engage with their children, mediate visitation and custody issues, and offer information on how to deal with court-ordered child support payments. CEO helps to improve parenting skills by educating parents in topics including proper discipline and the developmental stages of a child. If eligible, participants can enroll in CEO’s Young Parenting Demonstration Program or the Low–Income Dads Program. In addition to support specifically for each program, all participants in these programs are eligible to receive life skills education, short–term paid transitional employment, full–time job placement, and post–placement services.

New York City's CEO Academy: The CEO Academy is a trade preparation program that prepares participants with criminal convictions for entrance into trade school, supports them throughout training, and helps find them jobs in the trades after they finish training. Participants in the academy receive their hands–on training at Hostos Community College or at LaGuardia Community College and receive a certificate from these institutions in plumbing, electricity, or carpentry.

CEO also offers pre–placement training opportunities for all participants in New York City. CEO’s training opportunities are short, effective training programs that teach usable entry–level skills to CEO job–seekers. Participants in CEO's training programs all receive Certifications of Completion. Training Programs have included OSHA 10-hour Training, Customer Service Training, Warehouse/Forklift Training, Construction 101 Training, a Sanitation Training Program, and a Computer Training Program. As a solution towards educational barriers that can often hinder employment, CEO has a GED Program for participants who are in need of Pre–GED and GED Testing Training.

Operations: CEO is a national organization serving New York, Oklahoma, and California. Headquartered in New York City, the organization is run by Central Operations, New York City Operations, and National Operations. All of the offices work through a single Human Resources and Fiscal Department from New York City-based Central Operations. Each office outside of New York City is lead by an area coordinator or director and is comprised of case managers.

CEO partners with multiple community based organizations to provide transitional jobs for CEO's participants. By hiring CEO for cleaning and maintenance, seasonal tasks, or one–time jobs, customers benefit from our crew–based model that provides cost–effective, readily available, and responsibly managed labor. CEO has remained competitive in this business arena over the years for several reasons. First, CEO work crews are highly flexible and responsive. Ranging in size from 5–10 participants, crews can easily move from site–to–site throughout the work week or even throughout a single work day. Second, our crews have strong professional leadership. Every CEO crew is supervised by our own professional site supervisor who has a background in the work needed for a facilities and/or grounds operation. Our site supervisors are able to lead a crew of participants in order to meet all daily production goals. Further, site supervisors receive specific training including first aid, drug abuse awareness, and defensive driving. Third, CEO assumes responsibility for directly paying and managing the crew, easing any administrative burden.

Funding: CEO uses a funding model that combines philanthropic, government, and earned income equally. Because of this model, CEO is able to leverage each of the funding streams to better support its programmatic efforts. As an example, training supported by a foundation may allow us to expand the type of work our Transitional Jobs crews can do. This work experience could help our permanent job placements supported by government resources. As the organization has expanded throughout New York State and to Oklahoma and California, CEO has been able to replicate the funding model. As with any non–profit, we look to our Board for support in each of these areas. The Board has a Give & Get requirement and they assist with the other funding areas as needed.

Staffing: CEO staff members are dedicated to our mission and to the successful re–entry of each participant. Staff includes certified case managers, instructors, and counselors. CEO has job coaches, who work with clients and specialize in helping each participant seek and perform their jobs successfully. Job coaches provide intensive monitoring, training, assessment, and support to participants and facilitate healthy working relationships between participants and employers. Also, CEO uses job developers in charge of building a job search plan with participants based on the individual's skills, aptitudes, and abilities. A full–time site supervisor directs each participant during the transitional employment phase, and assists in the development of skills and trade–ready applications.

Tips to Implementation: CEO has established key strategic partnerships with the New York State Division of Parole and other vital social services, including relationships with local community colleges, health care facilities, technical training institutes, the New York Department of Social Services, the New York criminal justice departments, and other community and social stakeholders. Re–entry requires clients to have tools and resources to reduce recidivism. CEO works with community partners that address addictions (relapse prevention, coping skills, and community resource referrals), mental health treatment, and, through a partnership with Career Gear and Dress for Success, obtaining new and used business attire and accessories.

Successes: CEO places clients in full time jobs within two to three months of release. Over the life of the program, more than 14,000 participants have been placed with full time jobs and CEO has developed relationships with more than 500 different area businesses and organizations. CEO has nurtured important coalitions and partnerships that have established it as a key organization for the re–entry community. CEO’s methodology has been replicated in many parts of the country. Through its Responsible Fatherhood Program, since 2001 CEO clients have contributed more than $1,000,000 in child support payments on behalf of their children.

Challenges: Challenges include negative perceptions of people with criminal histories, limited technical and business acculturation skills, lack of strong work histories, and minimal formal education, all of which affects client employability. Community perceptions and stigma continue to plague former inmates, but CEO works with stakeholders to improve perceptions and reduce the impact the stigma has on client re–entry. Throughout New York, there are multiple barriers to employment. About 70% of formerly incarcerated people do not have a high school diploma and most have few work skills, limited work experience, and no references. Furthermore, surveys find employers are much more reluctant to hire people with records than they are any other disadvantaged group. In order to break these barriers, CEO acts as an intermediary between job seekers with criminal convictions and employers. CEO helps clients develop an employment plan that matches their skills with current job openings. Employers are then willing to lower their apprehension and hire CEO workers because they have a work reference through CEO’s transitional work program and the staff gets to know the job seekers and properly match them to the employers' needs. In fact, in 2010 during the worst economic downturn that this country has had, CEO secured 1,098 full–time job placements for people with criminal convictions in New York City.

Other Lessons Learned: CEO was born in the 1970s as a Vera Institute of Justice demonstration project; the agency was created to test this idea: What would happen if, instead of meeting barriers to employment, people coming home from incarceration were offered immediate, paid transitional jobs and help rejoining the permanent workforce? CEO's Theory of Change posits that if the employment needs of people with criminal convictions are addressed at their most vulnerable point –when they are first released from incarceration or soon after conviction —–they will be less likely to re–offend and more likely to build a positive foundation for themselves and their families.

This assumption has been borne out in independent research on CEO's program conducted by the respected social policy research organization MDRC, and funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services. MDRC's three–year randomized, controlled study of CEO showed that for individuals recently released from incarceration, participation in CEO resulted in lower rates on all measures of recidivism, including arrests, convictions, and returns to jail and prison. Convictions of a crime fell by over 22 percent, and re–incarceration for a new crime fell by over 26 percent—–outcomes MDRC not only deemed statistically significant but “rare” for rigorous studies of this kind.

MDRC's evaluation also showed that CEO dramatically increased employment during the year after an individual's release from prison, and found that for those who came to the agency within three months of their release, participation in CEO had positive impacts on full–time employment for up to three years. A final cost–benefit analysis, conducted jointly by MDRC and the Vera Institute of Justice, is scheduled for release in the near future, and will show a 3:1 benefit/cost ratio for participation in CEO.

Also, CEO's program model depends on extensive data tracking across a variety of measures, using an in–house web–based adaptation of a customer relationship management (CRM) database. CEO has customized user profiles for direct program job titles and every program employee is required to document their work in the system in real time. CEO's adaptation of the CRM database has contributed significantly to the ability to share information and track outcomes at our offices in real time.

The following tools are associated with Center for Employment Opportunities.  Please send us an email at for more information about these tools.

Passport to Success

Strategies for Obtaining Employment

Creating Change That Works Brochure

Lesson Plan Example