Chris Sweeney, Workforce Development Manager, MVLS, was chosen as a United Way Baltimore Region Workforce Leadership Academy fellow. Chris shares some of his thoughts on being selected and what lessons he hopes to incorporate in the workforce development project at MVLS.
- Why did you apply to be part of the academy class?
I have managed the Workforce Development Project here at MVLS since 2016. In that time, I’ve grown quite passionate about issues surrounding barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated people. But I’m performing one small piece of workforce development – legal services. I thought that the academy would be an opportunity to connect more closely with those involved in direct job training and other services, which will help me make a greater impact for my clients.
- What’s one thing you hope to get out of the experience?
I hope to learn more about the landscape of workforce development in Baltimore – all of the services being offered, the issues facing trainees, and how everyone involved in this effort can work together more effectively.
- How does your work at MVLS connect with what the leadership academy is doing?
The project I manage is a partnership with a number of job training sites, where we provide legal consultations, seminars, and full representation to trainees seeking assistance from a lawyer. Our aim is to remove barriers to employment, which often come in the form of criminal records, debt, unstable housing, tax issues, and more problems that can be solved through legal representation.
- Tell us a favorite story you have of working with a workforce development trainee.
One of my favorite stories involves a client whom I helped with expungement and shielding. We expunged a few cases from his record, but he was more concerned with peace order cases against him that were publicly visible. They all stemmed from a turbulent time in his family life that he had long moved on from. Due to the timing of these cases and the rules surrounding shielding, the process to remove these cases took almost three years. One of the cases was not even technically eligible for shielding under the statutory language, but certain unusual facts allowed us to make an argument for good cause and have the shielding granted. During this time, my client graduated from community college and enrolled in a science program at a university.