Google, nonprofits to expand training for previously incarcerated people in Bay Area

Apr 29, 2021   |  By Chase DiFeliciantonio

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Google plans to expand a program to help formerly incarcerated people receive job training and skills, pegged to a White House effort aimed at helping people stay out of prison and jail.

The Mountain View company is working with five nonprofits across the U.S., including in the Bay Area, and plans to provide training to 10,000 people by the end of the year. The expansion is a part of Grow with Google, the company’s effort to provide skills training and career certificates. The money, about $1 million, comes from a multimillion dollar racial equity fund the company announced last year.

The training will focus on bic computer skills and job search and preparation, along with online safety and more advanced skills like project management and entrepreneurship. Google said it hopes to train at least 1,500 people statewide through the program by the end of the year.

Nonprofits the Last Mile and Defy Ventures, both with programs in the Bay Area and elsewhere in Northern California, will be part of the program.

Dane Worthington is the director of economic opportunity at the Center for Employment Opportunities, a national nonprofit with offices in the Bay Area that works with people recently released from prison and is also part of the Google initiative.

Worthington said his group typically provides training and immediate work opportunities for recently incarcerated people and that the Google money will help them expand their offerings as well as provide equipment like laptops and internet hotspots for skills training.

“Having a criminal conviction can bar you from certain types of employment,” Worthington said. He said the pandemic has also made it harder for recently incarcerated people to get jobs in the service industry as those jobs have not come back as strongly, but transportation and warehousing jobs have been a bright spot because of demand.

Worthington said he expects the program to reach about 2,000 people across the U.S. by year’s end through his group, with about half of them in California and roughly 500 in the greater Bay Area.

With virus transmission easing statewide and more people being vaccinated, California has the lowest COVID rate in the country, but parts of the state’s economy have still taken heavy damage. That means fewer jobs and more barriers for formerly incarcerated people to fill and get a foothold back into society.

The state’s unemployment rate last month was almost double the 4.5% Californians saw in March of last year. Despite hundreds of thousands of hirings due to easing restrictions, the state is still behind by 1.3 million jobs compared to March 2020.

According to the White House, more than 600,000 people re-enter society from state and federal prisons each year. Thousands of prisoners in California saw early release last year to reduce overcrowding in state prisons that contributed to outbreaks of the virus at San Quentin and elsewhere.

Chase DiFeliciantonio is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ChaseDiFelice