ST. CLOUD -- Nearly one in three Americans have a criminal record, and that can be problematic when it comes to finding employment.

"Untapped Workforce: Benefits of Being a Fair Chance Employer," a workshop coming to St. Cloud this month, aims to educate employers about the benefits to hiring individuals with previous convictions.

Ileana Merten is the Development Director for Career Solutions, the St. Cloud-based employment and training agency sponsoring the workshop specifically focused on those with criminal records. She says Fair Chance employment opens opportunities to overlooked workers who have already served their sentences and deserve a fresh start.

"Individuals might have had a felony 10 years ago, but they've changed," Merten says. "Look at them again. They're basically very employable and have a lot of skills. Employers need to look at that."

Mertens says, by considering Fair Chance employees, companies have a increased likelihood of finding workers with the right skills and qualifications - and all parties benefit.

"If you have that felony on there, you can't get housing, student loans ... it affects everything. We need to look past that and say, "that might have happened in the past, but now, how can (employers) make a difference?"

The workshop will include a panel discussion from experts in the legal, nonprofit and faith communities.

Untapped Workforce: Benefits of Being a Fair Chance Employer will held on Tuesday, October 22 from 8:30 a.m.- 12 p.m. at Capitol One Cafe, 30 7th Ave. S. in downtown St. Cloud. The cost is $25 per person.

To learn more or register, visit this website.

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