Ontario Creating Safer Communities through Second Chance Hiring

New projects will help up to 2,000 people with criminal records escape the cycle of poverty, incarceration, and crime

April 26, 2023

Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development

Table of Contents

  1. Content
  2. Quick Facts
  4. Additional Resources
  5. Related Topics

TORONTO — The Ontario government is investing $12 million to support nine innovative projects designed to help up to 2,000 people leaving the justice system or with prior criminal records find meaningful jobs with local businesses, helping them create connections and a sense of belonging within their communities. More than one million people in Ontario live with a criminal record, which can decrease the chances of a second interview by 50 per cent and drastically increases the likelihood of long-term poverty. Stable employment has been shown to help address the root causes of crime and reduce the likelihood of someone re-offending.

“Across Ontario, tens of thousands of people have paid their dues and just want to roll up their sleeves and give back,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. “Under the leadership of Premier Ford, our government believes in the power of second chances. I urge business leaders to join us as we smash through the stigma of a criminal record.”

Led by various organizations across multiple sectors, the programs announced today will prepare jobseekers for well-paying careers in construction, manufacturing, hospitality, food and beverage processing, and other industries. They will provide a range of employment and training needs through apprenticeship and technical training, on-the-job learning, and improving job readiness and interview skills. The projects include wrap-around support like mentorship, job placement, and mental health resources to ensure a smooth transition to the job market.

“We believe in second chances and in the inherent potential of each person,” said Michael Kerzner, Solicitor General. “Building a strong Ontario means that no one gets left behind, including those with previous criminal records. By connecting those with criminal records to skills training, we are creating brighter futures and better tomorrows.”

The government will be unveiling additional programs to help people with prior involvement in the criminal justice system over the coming months. These projects are funded through the Skills Development Fund, a $700 million initiative, which supports ground-breaking programs that connect jobseekers with the skills and training they need to find well-paying careers close to home.

“Minister McNaughton and his team have done incredible work to support training and skills development in the hospitality sector,” said Terry Tsianos, Chairman of Scale Hospitality. “The ongoing funding received through the provincial SDF program has allowed us to provide second chance training to at-risk youth across the GTA and provide them with valuable training to transform their lives. The support this year will, once again, position the hospitality sector as a viable option for individuals who want meaningful, well-paying employment. We are thankful for the leadership of Premier Ford, Minister McNaughton, and Minister Kerzner for their continued support for skills development and second chance programs.”

For more information and the full list of funding recipients, see the backgrounder.

Quick Facts

  • In the winter, there were over 316,000 job vacancies in Ontario.
  • Through its first two funding rounds, the Skills Development Fund has supported 388 projects aiming to help nearly 400,000 people around the province take the next step in their careers.
  • Ontario’s Skills Development Fund is supported through labour market transfer agreements between the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.
  • This year the government is investing $1.9 million in the Corrections Literacy Initiative to help close to 1,000 learners across 13 correctional facilities improve their math, reading, and writing skills. This improves their chances to land a good job after they have served their sentence.


“Fernie Youth Services is ecstatic to have received a Skills Development Fund grant to expand the Fernie Works Employment Program with the confidence of empowering young racialized and justice-involved job-seekers facing barriers to meaningful employment. Fernie Works provides second chances to youth in conflict with the law to guide them in career planning, education, and real-world job placements. The holistic program, rooted in Fernie Youth Services’ commitment to Caring Beyond Reason and in partnership with the Skills Development Fund will create a win-win-win for youth, employers, and Ontario’s economy.”

– Madison Perdue
Resource Development Coordinator, Fernie Youth Services

“This support from the province allows us to deliver a network of supports to marginalized Ontarians that does not only ensure that they have access to apprenticeship opportunities, but also that they have the long term support they need to complete their apprenticeship, break the cycle of poverty, and create a more diverse workforce at all levels of the construction sector.”

– Marc Soberano
Founder and Executive Director, Building Up

“Everyone deserves a chance to make positive changes, and with the accelerated essential skills training, job matching, and effective coaching delivered through the Bridging the Skills Gap Project, these equity deserving individuals could be well on their way to securing meaningful employment at local companies who are struggling to fill open positions.”

– Bonnie Macklin
President & Director of Recruitment Solutions, Calibre Recruitment Inc.

“As a restorative justice organization, Community Justice Initiatives believes that communities are safer when people feel included and their social and financial needs are met. If we want people leaving prison to succeed in the community, then we need to build the community’s capacity to receive them and include them in the workforce. By connecting employers with criminalized people, this grant allows us to co-create opportunities to address the barriers that prevent people from a career path toward decent work after prison.”

– Kate Crozier
Director of Programs, Community Justice Initiatives

“We are very excited to continue working with the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. Through their Skills Development Fund, Hammer Heads will support under-resourced and under-represented youth in obtaining a life-changing career in the skilled construction trades.”

– James St. John
Business Manager of the Central Ontario Building Trades and Director of the Hammer Heads Program

“The Funding the Prison Fellowship Canada is receiving through the Ontario government will help identify 30 newly released prisoners for meaningful employment opportunities, assisting them with wrap-around support they need to secure and thrive in a job placement. The Bridgecare program will support clients with career development upskilling, training and certification; transportation, and mental health supports.”

– Stacey Campbell
President and CEO, Prison Fellowship Canada

“Spotwork is excited to participate in the Government of Ontario’s effort to offer justice system-involved people new opportunities for employment. Thanks to Minister McNaughton and the government’s Skills Development Fund, Spotwork will create a unique technological solution to open new labour sources for employers and give thousands of job seekers a well-deserved second chance at work.”

– Darren Perlman
Co-Founder, Spotwork

“The funding the Oaks Revitalization Association is receiving through the Ontario government will help provide training and mentorship to justice-involved individuals, giving them the opportunity to turn their lives around and become productive citizens in their communities. This funding is a powerful tool to help our clients overcome the challenges they often face and give them a second chance in life.”

– Joe Williams and Mark Tenaglia
Managing Director and Executive Director, The Oaks Revitalization Association

Additional Resources

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Media Contacts

Sydney Dubin
Office of the Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development

Anuradha Dhar
Communications Branch
Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development